Letitia Falk

Lab Technician/Recent MSc graduate, University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada

About Letitia

Bio

I am a 28 year old recent graduate of the Masters of Science program at the University of British Columbia. I study Cell Biology of B-cells (a type of white blood cell). I am also a professional bellydancer and I signed up for TED conversations to be able to chat about some of these amazing talks as well as to spare my friends and family some of my soap-box rants because I am obsessively interested in many subjects.

Languages

English

Areas of Expertise

Dance, Cell Biology, Immunology

I'm passionate about

Science, Immunology, Evolution, Teaching, Bellydance, Athiesm, Religion, Feminism, Sexuality

Universities

UBC - M.Sc.

Talk to me about

Employment opportunities

My TED story

Introduced to TED as a teaching tool for TA's

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

192292
Letitia Falk
Posted over 2 years ago
Do right and wrong exist?
Thank you. I do agree that science can help us answer moral questions. I think your use of the word "help" explains it all. Science is just a method. The answers are there in the facts whether we figure them out or not, regardless of how we figure them out. I applaud Sam Harris for recognizing that there is a barrier to overcome in the way that we see morality as being outside the influence of scientific inquiry. Science may not be able to provide an explanation for everything, but it can't hurt to try can it?
192292
Letitia Falk
Posted over 2 years ago
How do we prove an answer
I guess that depends on the question being answered...but since you said "prove"... A reductionist and scientific perspective on this: Statistically speaking, you come up with a hypothesis (what you guess the answer is), and then you forget that, and try and prove the opposite: you try and prove the null hypothesis (that nothing happens, or that there is no effect). If you fail to prove the null hypothesis, only then do you conclude that the alternate hypothesis (what you guessed) was right Keeping in mind that some uncertainty is inevitable: 95% certainty is usually considered good enough. The nice thing about science as a method for generating answers is that the field is so concerned with being unbiased, that statistical tests are designed so that you can prove yourself wrong if it all possible - before considering that you are right. Then add into this the need for replication of results and peer review and you have a pretty elegant system for answering questions (at least ones that are testable - and "provable").
192292
Letitia Falk
Posted about 3 years ago
What have you done to help the Earth?
The thing I have done to reduce my carbon footprint in the last year that I am the most excited about is to switch to using a Diva Cup instead of tampons or pads during my period. This silicone cup can be washed and reused for up to two years, reducing the waste generated by conventional feminine products (not to mention saving money). Its also better for your health because it doesn't absorb your natural lubrication, leave behind cottony residue and is less susceptible to bacterial growth. Approximately 7 billion tampons went into North American waste last year! This is a small and manageable step that any woman can make and the best part is you're not just saving the planet, but saving money and your heath too!
192292
Letitia Falk
Posted about 3 years ago
What are ecosystem services that you rely on everyday? Are you willing to pay for them?
I think, as others have pointed out, that the term "ecosystem service" is a bit vague to describe what seems to be the main topic here: food production. Just for contrast, the first ecosystem that came to my mind that is "of service" was the micro-organisms that line our bodies, protecting us from infection...(this is my favorite ecosystem if I had to pick one!) I'm not quite sure what you mean by paying for ecosystem services in the broad sense since an ecosystem is not a "thing" and I'm not really sure how one can be controlled in order to be distributed for purchase. I will stick with my original example and say that yes, I am willing to pay for the probiotic effects of yogurt! (And do whenever I have to take antibiotics). I think that we all need to get out of the "buying" mindset. I think our hands are tied by our economy and that we can do more than choose the best option at the supermarket. But I agree with you about the importance of ecosystems: We derive many benefits from other species and would benefit from everyone being more aware of them :)
192292
Letitia Falk
Posted about 3 years ago
What are ecosystem services that you rely on everyday? Are you willing to pay for them?
"A natural ecological system can only exist without human intervention" Really? Aren't humans natural? I would definitely consider us part of the ecosystem. Admittedly we have evolved to have immense manipulative ability over our natural environment but before technology gave us that edge we existed as hunter gatherers, having no more impact on the ecosystem than countless other species. Our technological advances can be used for good or evil (to be dramatic) and I think we are capable of change. The popularity of "Organic" food stores and the like speak to our increased awareness of our health and environment.
192292
Letitia Falk
Posted about 3 years ago
How did you first learn to be black or African or what was your earliest memory of learning about blackness/Africaness as different?
The first time I remember being aware that people came in different colors was my first day of kindergarten. I climbed into the car when my mom came and picked me up and started rambling about my day. One of the first things that came out of my mouth was "Mom! There's a little brown boy in my class!" I don't remember attributing any value to this observation. I just thought it was neat. We became friends and he was my first crush. If I was aware of any negative attitudes towards blackness it was only through preventative anti-racism messages on TV and in school. I'm not sure if things would have been different if I lived in a more multicultural location or if I just was lucky enough to be brought up in a relatively tolerant place but racism is not something I have experienced first hand. Ever :)
192292
Letitia Falk
Posted over 3 years ago
Where do you use math in your profession?
I am a Biologist and I was really lucky and got my first research job after second year of University before I had taken any statistics courses. Because I had learned how to conduct good experiments, I knew that I needed controls: I was looking at chemicals that made lavender plant roots grow so I knew that for every chemical I added I had to add the same amount of each one and that I had to repeat another plant grown without any chemical in case the conditions (light, nutrients, temperature...) affected how the roots grew instead of the chemical. So I got all of my data and one of the chemicals made the roots grow more on all of the plants it was tested on, but how could I know that they grew different ENOUGH from the control that this chemical might be worthwhile to use? After all, even plants treated the same way sometimes grew a lot and sometimes only grew a little. Maybe the plants had a lot of variation in root length and this trend was just a fluke? Or a result of growing the plants in a lab instead of outside? I needed statistics! Statistics take into account the natural amount of variation in samples and tell you if a trend is "significant" or not. I had to try to teach myself all of the formulas I needed for my research so by the time I DID take statistics the next year, I was VERY grateful for the class :) Statistics is what lets me know that the results of my experiments are actually MEANINGFUL, and because there are consistent amounts of variation allowed (5% usually). Scientists from around the world use the same guidelines and can therefore trust each others results. Math allows scientists to be objective and to share data that is meaningful according to agreed upon standards. Without it we would see "what we want to see" and would have trouble communicating with one another.
192292
Letitia Falk
Posted over 3 years ago
Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun
Thanks Enrico. And I agree that the Occupy movements were a great example of how effective peaceful protest can be. I have the utmost respect for the protestors who refused to respond to police brutality in kind. The amount of protective gear worn by riot police in this instance just goes to show that violence was EXPECTED in return, and it is a credit to humanity to see that we CAN break from this pattern. Yes, we have a history of scarcity, and of using violence to solve our problems. But we're getting closer all the time to understanding our nature and finding better solutions, and while Van Uhm's talk presents a reasonably valid viewpoint about the way things work now and have worked in the past, it doesn't really help us move forward into a future that is more sustainable and fair to all....?