ASL in Space

“American Sign Language, or ASL, made its debut on the space station in a special video recorded by [astronaut Tracy] Caldwell Dyson.”


Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace Day! From the Finding Ada site:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

I’ve been working in various aspects of science and technology for almost twenty years, give or take a couple years in grad school. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid any overt discrimination, as far as I can tell, and for that I give credit to a series of very enlightened employers and a tremendous undergraduate education at Wellesley College. Wellesley’s physics, astronomy, and computer science departments not only taught me how to be a scientist, but also that women could succeed and excel in the physical sciences. The long list of impressive alumnae made it very clear that there was no reason we students couldn’t succeed too. This post is a thank you and a tribute to all the women who made that education possible and who have been role models to Wellesley students and women in technology everywhere. A few of my favorites:


  • Sarah Whiting, Wellesley’s first physics professor and founder of the astronomy department.
  • Phyllis Fleming, physics, whom I wish I’d had the chance to know better.
  • Ellen Hildreth, computer science, who taught me programming.
  • Wendy Bauer, astronomy, who taught me astrophotography and observing techniques.
  • Lauri Wardell, physics lab instructor, who spent many, many hours teaching us how to align equipment and solder circuits and make our experiments work.
  • Alumnae:

  • Annie Jump Cannon, astronomer and co-creator of the Harvard stellar classification system.
  • Martha Haynes, astronomer (my senior thesis was based on some of her work).
  • Persis Drell, physicist and director of SLAC.
  • Pam Melroy, astronaut.
  • Philology and science, again

    I’m still disinclined to trust textual criticism for the most part, but this study is the sort of thing that could convince me: a mathematical analysis of the validity of the principle of lectio difficilior.

    Impossible to please

    John Gruber gets exactly how I feel about computers: “Real Mac users, to me, are people with much higher standards, impossibly high standards, and who use Macs not because they’re great, but because they suck less than everything else.”

    Why I’m not buying stock in Adobe

    If I had money to buy stock, that is. Daring Fireball posted this interesting article today, all about why Apple and Flash don’t play nicely together. At my office we’ve spent a bit of the past year discussing whether to do our interactive visualizations in Flash or Javascript (e.g. Flot, Protovis, or my new favorite, jqPlot). Amusingly, one of the assumptions of the article is the ubiquity of Flash on the web, while our discussions here have revolved around the problem of “what do we do for users who don’t have Flash installed?” Just one more way in which the scientific community has a different set of requirements than the general public.

    Things to improve a cold morning

    Good tea, good music, and my cinema display back from Apple with a new logic board. Happiness!

    AGU 2009

    I just got back from the 2009 AGU meeting. Because I am too lazy to organize my bookmarks interested in sharing information with my colleagues, I’m bookmarking a bunch of interesting stuff here. It turns out that the stuff we’ve been working on has a name, and a newly-formed AGU division, and is actually a respectable branch of research. Who knew? So, some earth science informatics links, and a couple of things I need to investigate:

    • AGU ESSI (this one could use a design update)
    • Talkoot
    • Earth Science Informatics journal
    • I should actually join the AGU
    • Everyone seems to love Drupal (Dad, I hereby apologize for not paying more attention to you when you told me it was cool. You were right. I hope you can read the internet wherever you are now.)
    • Protovis unexpectedly appeared in my RSS feed (thanks to FlowingData) and looks very cool.



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