Archive for the 'technology' Category

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.
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    Random Hacks of Kindness

    If I were either more qualified, or in the Bay Area, or both, I’d be attending the Random Hacks of Kindness event, a codejam where programmers and disaster relief experts get together to try to use technology to solve some difficult problems. I’m really interested in this problem – how do we use tech to make crisis response better – and this sounds like an event where things will actually get done, instead of just another PR gimmick where the first world sends computers to the third world without first checking if they have electricity. Even if you can’t make it, check out their website and look at the preliminary project definitions. It’s interesting and important work.

    Snow Leopard

    I’ve just been reading Pogue’s review of Snow Leopard. The features which excite me the most:

    • Showing the date in the menu bar, so I don’t have to expend any brainpower whatsoever to remember what day it is;
    • Not having to sit around for quite so long waiting for Safari to boot up;
    • And most of all, the option to record your screen actions as a movie. I recently gave my mom my old iBook (she can’t get Snow Leopard, alas, as it’s only for Intel chips), and it is very tedious typing out instructions for “how to burn a CD” or “how to install Adium.” This will be so much better.

    Your phone can hear you

    SoundSense is an app that uses the microphone on your cell phone to listen to your environment and figure out where you are.

    The privacy ramifications are fascinating, of course, though not much different from those of geolocation. But the convenience! You could set your phone to figure out when you’re driving/in a meeting/in class/at a movie and turn off the ringer by itself. Or it could have a threshold for when your toddler is sounding a little too cranky at a restaurant, at which point it would start playing Sesame Street podcasts.


    At first I thought Hunch was kind of unnerving. Then I read a little bit about the theory behind it, and now I’m intrigued.



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