Archive for the 'science' Category

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.

    Dr. Carol Greider

    This interview with Dr. Greider, a winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, is great reading. A few choice quotes:

    • “One of the things I was thinking about today is that as a kid I had dyslexia.” … “I learned to memorize things very well because I just couldn’t spell words. So later when I got to take classes like chemistry and anatomy where I had to memorize things, it turned out I was very good at that.”
    • “When Lawrence Summers, then the Harvard president, made that statement a few years ago about why there were fewer successful women in science, I thought, “Oh, he couldn’t really mean that.”’ “
    • “One of the things I did with the press conference that Johns Hopkins gave was to have my two kids there. In the newspapers, there’s a picture of me and my kids right there. How many men have won the Nobel in the last few years, and they have kids the same age as mine, and their kids aren’t in the picture?”

    Best out-of-context science quote of the day

    “It’s not your grandmother’s water on the moon.”


    I confess, I read Jennifer Ouellette’s blog not for the science writing, but for her recommendations of TV shows with physics in them. There’s nothing like rationalizing cheesy TV by saying “But it’s for SCIENCE!”

    Tyrannosaurs can now fit in F-14s

    My RSS feed this morning gave me mini T-rexes and a reference to one of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes strips. The possibilities are just mind-boggling.



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