Tag Archives: physics

A Linkspamination unto Nuggan (9 Aug 2013)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

railway-museum-lamp

Prepping for April Fool’s Day linkspam

The photo has nothing to do with the title, except that we are the lamp of knowledge and truth and anti-sexism shining into the dark corners of ignorance! Or maybe not. Anyway, linkspam:

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Countess Ada Lovelace, by the Ada Initiative, CC Zero

Wednesday Geek Women: Moran Paldi, game designer; Leena van Deventer, gaming writing; Catriona Wimberley, medical physics student

This is a guest post by Ben McKenzie. This post appeared on his blog for Ada Lovelace Day 2011.

On Ada Lovelace Day we celebrate women working in technology and science who have inspired us. I have been definitely been inspired by women in science, from the famous like Ada herself and Marie Curie, to more recent heroes like student astrophysicist Amelia Fraser-McKelvie. But I’d like to talk about some of my friends, and in the wake of my participation in a discussion about feminism and games at Cherchez la Femme this month, specifically those working with computers and technology, like Ada did. All are inspiring to me, for their drive, their outlook, and their success, so I thought I would ask them a few questions to find about about them, and their inspiring women, in their own words.

Moran Paldi (ranpal.com.au)

Moran has over a decade of experience in the games industry; now living in Melbourne, she builds and designs video games, and teaches others to do the same. To spend even a few minutes talking games with her is to uncover an incredible depth of knowledge and passion for games in every facet of their existence, from code to controller.

How did you get into the games industry?

I studied mixed media practice at uni in London, originally planning to be an investigative journalist. I got hooked on animation at school and managed to land a job as an animator at a small indie studio when I graduated. Since then I have worked professionally as a games developer at companies like Sega and THQ,  and have now come full circle to back to my independent roots. I also teach at RMIT University on the Games Graphic Design course where I lecture in maths and games design theory.

Why video games? What do you love about this work?

I love the technical and creative challenges that making games presents. They are multilayered digital puzzles, and there’s this cycle of figuring out what you want to do, and then figuring out how to make it happen. They are fractal beasts. The more you explore them the more there is to find. Plus, the technology is always evolving, so you have to keep up with it, and that pushes you. I love exploring the boundaries of what is possible, and finding new ways to tell familiar stories. Oh, and it’s also hella fun.

Who would you be writing about for Ada Lovelace Day?

Obviously Ada! She wrote the worlds first computer program for a then theoretical analytic device. Her work is the basis of modern computing, and she deserves to be better known. Similarly, it was a group of women who built and programmed the ENIAC, which was the first electronic computer, not that you’d know that from most of the histories. Coding used to be considered women’s work, until it became high value. Now it’s perceived as a masculine pursuit. Women in tech have been made invisible for too long now. We need to break that pattern.

Leena van Deventer (grassisleena.com)

Leena is a freelance writer, both for and about games; though she only started eighteen months ago she’s already written for MMGN.com, The Age“s Screen Play blog and a whole bunch of gaming sites, and is co-host of the GamePlayPodcast and the games correspondent for Tech Talk Radio. The first game to be released with her name in the credits will be the seventh Gamebook Adventures title for iOS, Temple of the Spider God.

How did you become a games writer?

I started with a blog, just quietly doing my own thing until people seemed interested in hiring me. I then cast out a net and worked for anyone who would let me, paid or unpaid, for the experience to then make it into a proper job. I went to as many industry events as I could find and talked to as many like-minded individuals as humanly possible. Much scotch was consumed. Oh the scotch. From there I’ve been offered amazing opportunities to work in a field I’m quickly falling head over heels in love with.

Why the love affair?

I love having an opinion. It was always a negative growing up. The over-opinionated only child stereotype was in full flight and it was always treated as a personality flaw. Once I grew up and mellowed a bit I realised I could temper it to be a powerful force – and one that could be capitalised on, at that. Taking what was once considered a flaw in my personality and turning it into a positive, constructive “thing” I had to offer was extremely rewarding, and mirrored my feelings about my favourite pastime. Playing games was always either a little bit geeky, or something only the boys in the street did, or something I was scared to talk about at school for fear of scorn. I love the fact I’m “out” now as someone who loves games so much, and that I can embrace my voice and my opinions about them. The thought of utilising those strong feelings to help make great games one day is something that inspires me immensely. Working in this industry makes me feel less broken.

Who would you write about for Ada Lovelace Day?

Brenda Braithwaite is a powerhouse of a woman – a stalwart of the games industry – who inspires me greatly. She stood up when people were saying that consoles would ruin the games industry and said “That’s bullshit”. She’s now standing up when people say games on social networks will kill the games industry and says “That’s bullshit”. She’s paving the way for many great game developers to come after her and to me that’s a lasting legacy that will stick and is something to be truly proud of. We need people to stand up and say when something is bullshit. Our industry is still in its infancy, and despite that there are many issues ingrained deeply into it. The only way we’re going to move forward and improve on our weaknesses is for people to stand up and say “That’s bullshit” and stop accepting the mediocre. She inspires me to want more from the industry and ask “Can’t we do better?”.

Catriona Wimberley

Catriona is a PhD student in medical physics at the University of Sydney, currently working at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Though studying science, her career has been heavily entwined with technology, from computer programming to electronic engineering. She’s travelled around Australia and the world to present her work, and was featured in the Cosmos Ultimate Science Guide 2011 for prospective science students.

What are you working on for your PhD?

I’m working on kinetic modelling and parameter estimation in PET (positron emission tomography) imaging. In a nutshell, I take the images/data from scans and do some interesting mathematical modelling to find information about how the body/brain is working, or more importantly, not working, so that we can study how different neurodegenerative disorders (eg. MS or Alzheimers) progress.

How did you reach this point of your career?

A winding path where every opportunity was taken to explore exciting areas of research!

Before finally settling on the area of research I am currently in, I had worked in a biomedical engineering division (doing repair and maintenance of medical equipment), in a cardiology lab, a respiratory lab and a sleep lab (all doing clinical work). These placements helped me realise that I need more than a clinical or repair and maintenance job – I need to be able to think, create, analyse and innovate!

In final year uni, an opportunity came up to do a placement at the Bionic Ear Institute and I jumped at it. It was a great placement, gave me a taste of the research life, I was able to find out how part of the brain works using the computer and programming! But still… before I settled, I knew I needed to explore my other science love: physics.

I applied for the Nuclear Futures graduate program at ANSTO and was accepted into it. This program was what helped me decide that I truly did want to be a researcher. It was a rotational program so I got to work in an engineering project management role creating devices and upgrading safety systems, in the maintenance team for the OPAL research reactor; I wrote computer programs for physicists to interpret their data, I wrote reports about nuclear power for the Australian Government, I designed equipment to improve the quality of medical imaging – and from all of these adventures, I decided I wanted to specialise in medical physics – where else do you get the combination of physics, computing, maths and the end result is figuring out how the brain works?

What drives your passion for science?

I do it because I love finding patterns and meaning in data. I do it because I love programming and I love making programs that work and make life easier for people or elicit information. I do it because I get to think and discover new things about how the world works. I do it because it is fascinating and I couldn’t not do it.

I do it because I am curious and I need to figure things out. I love that I can lose myself in thinking and designing and analysing and interpreting.

Who would you write about for Ada Lovelace Day?

Marie Curie, for her ideas, her hard work and her drive to never give up. My PhD lineage can be traced back to her! Marie’s daughter Irene Joliot-Curie was also a chemist, and won a Nobel prize in 1935. Irene’s son Pierre Joliot is a biologist and was the PhD supervisor of Marie-Claude Gregoire, who is supervising me.

Also Elizabeth Blackburn [winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine], for showing people that it is possible to have a highly successful science career and have a family.

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Stylised atom, showing nucleus and electrons

Wednesday Geek Woman: Mahananda Dasgupta, nuclear fusion researcher

This post appeared on Lecta and Hoyden About Town for Ada Lovelace Day 2011.

Mahananda Dasgupta is a professor in the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University. Dasgupta’s research takes place at the heavy-ion accelerator facility and investigates quantum tunnelling when heavy nuclei collide. Her Pawsey Medal award in 2006 cites cutting-edge contributions includ[ing] precision measurements of unprecedented accuracy.

Dasgupta moved to Australia from India for a postdoctoral position in the 1990s, and eventually was appointed to a tenured position in 2003. She became the first woman to hold a tenured position in the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering at the ANU in its entire 50+ years of existence! (I was very surprised to find this, the School must be enormous in terms of academic staff, it comprises nine research departments.)

How do we retain that female workforce [in science]?

By strong and meaningful mentoring, which doesn’t just mean a quick meeting once a month or web-based mentoring, but real mentors who encourage women or younger people to devise strategies about how best to use their time, and what roles to apply for to advance their career.

Every person at that early stage needs support. We need to champion women scientifically – not “she’s a good person”, but “she’s an excellent physicist who’s done this great work”… Equally, the employers’ responsibility to provide childcare is very important… If we are expanding and building infrastructure – why are we not building childcare facilities?

I was educated in India where, if a student is sharp, they’re encouraged to show it through participating in discussions or taking on extra-educational activities… It does strike me that in Australia we give a lot of kudos to those who excel in sports, but if you excel in studies you are a dork, particularly among other students… Sometimes, following talks I give in schools, students come to the carpark to ask me science questions, rather than asking them in front of the class… How do we get away from that? I believe that to make real long-term progress we must respect and encourage intellectual achievements.

Mahananda Dasgupta, The Conversation: So seriously, why aren’t there more women in science?

Dasgupta is active both in advocating careers in science in general, volunteering herself as a science careers lecturer at schools, and in speaking on behalf of women in science. In 2004 she was the Woman in Physics Lecturer for the year, and in 2011 she represented the Group of Eight universities (the eight universities that consider themselves Australia’s best research universities) at a Women in Science and Engineering summit at Parliament House. Her 2011 Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship from the Australian Research Council calls upon her to increase the profile of Women in Science through outreach activities, and work towards advancing early career researchers as well as facilitate leadership pathways for senior women researchers.

Recognition Dasgupta has received for her work includes:

  • the Australian Academy of Sciences’ Pawsey Medal in 2006, for outstanding work in physics by a scientist under 40
  • her election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2011
  • an Australian Laureate Fellowship in 2011

I can’t embed them in the post for licencing reasons, but David Hine has a couple of photos of Dasgupta with her experimental equipment: Dr Mahananda Dasgupta and Dr Mahananda Dasgupta and Dr David Hinde.

References

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Want to highlight a geek woman? Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Photograph of Branca Edmée Marques

Wednesday Geek Woman: Branca Edmée Marques, Portuguese scientist, and collaborator with Marie Curie

This is a guest post by Jennifer. Jennifer is a feminist and actuary who is travelling the world with her family and profiling notable women of history on her blog.

This entry is cross-posted from Jennifer’s blog.

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Photograph of Branca Edmée MarquesBranca Edmée Marques was a Portuguese scientist, who studied and worked with Marie Curie. She was born in Lisbon in 1899, and studied chemistry at the University of Lisbon. In 1925 after completing her degree, she was invited to be an Assistant by the Chemistry Professor. He was concerned about whether she would maintain discipline in her classes, being female, but she must have succeeded as in 1930 she was awarded a scholarship to study with Marie Curie at the Sorbonne, in Paris.

Marie Curie was by then very famous, having won two Nobel Prizes. Curie liked her work so much that she gave her one of her most interesting research projects to do, and wrote a letter to the Portuguese government asking them to renew her research grant.

Unfortunately the combination of Marques being a woman, and the Portuguese government being in a state of flux (transforming from military to civilian dictatorship) meant that her grant wasn’t renewed. Curie managed to finagle a continuing scholarship for her anyway, and her doctorate on “new research on the fragmentation of barium salts” was awarded with the highest possible rating of tres honorable. In 1936, the Portuguese Universities recognized the degree, and awarded her an equivalent doctorate.

On returning home, however, she was unable to get an appropriate post at University. This, from all my sources, does appear to be fairly simple sexism, even if the lack of financial support in France might not have been. Instead, she lectured and started up the Laboratory of Radiochemistry and only in 1942 was she awarded the title of First Assistant, which meant that the University was recognizing her contribution more significantly.

Photograph of Branca Edmée Marques
She continued to lecture and work towards building up a new department, which eventually became the Department of Radiochemistry and Nuclear Chemistry. She published regularly throughout her professional life, researching many aspects of peaceful application of nuclear technology. In 1966, her contributions were finally recognized with a full professorship at the University of Lisbon.

She died in 1986, at the age of 87.

This post is based on Portuguese language sources (linked below) so anyone who can read the original Portuguese, please feel free to comment if my interpretations were wrong!

Marcas das ciências e das técnicas: Professora Branca Edmée Marques
A ciência em Portugal: Branca Edmée Marques
Maxima: Sancha Sanches

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Flying by the seat of my linkspam (29th July, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Photo of Sally Ride.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Sally Ride, astronaut and first American woman in space

This is a guest post by Maya. This entry originally appeared at the Project Exploration blog.

Photo of Sally Ride.

Sally Ride. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sally Ride was born in 1951 in Los Angeles, California. As a young woman, her interests included science and tennis. She was a nationally ranked amateur, and she briefly left college to pursue tennis as a career. After several months of practice, she gave up on the idea and transferred to Stanford University, where she double majored in English and physics. After completing her undergraduate degree, she remained at Stanford to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in physics.

After completing her education, Ride joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She trained rigorously for a year, during which time she collaborated on the development of the Space Shuttle’s robot arm and worked in mission control as a Capsule Communicator. Once her training was completed, she was assigned to the Space Shuttle Challenger. When the shuttle was launched on June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space. Her second and final flight took place the following year. Over the course of her two missions, she spent a total of 14 days in space.

Ride was scheduled to take a third flight, but all training was suspended after the tragic Challenger accident in 1986. Instead, she was appointed to the Presidential Commission responsible for investigating the disaster. After the investigation was completed, she was assigned to NASA Headquarters.

Photo of Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle.

Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1989, Ride was offered a faculty position at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). At UCSD, she filled two roles—professor of physics and Director of the California Space Institute. In 2001, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, with the goal of promoting science education. She is now on leave from the university, working as president and chief executive officer of Sally Ride Science.

Ride has received numerous awards for her accomplishments. She has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and the Aviation Hall of Fame. She is also a two-time NASA Space Flight Medalist.

Science is Ride’s passion, and she has written 6 books for children about space. She continues working to improve opportunities in science education, particularly for girls and young women. She hopes that today’s young people will come to share her love of science.

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Wednesday Geek Woman: Lise Meitner, co-discoverer of nuclear fission

The Wednesday Geek Woman series is mostly on hiatus. Remaining WGW posts are appearing sporadically.

This is a guest post by Shauna, a psychologist, programmer, writer and blogger.

Portrait of Lise Meitner, 1900

Portrait of Lise Meitner, 1900 (public domain image)

Lise Meitner was born into an affluent Jewish family in Austria in 1878. She faced much institutionalized sexism: she was not allowed to attend any universities and had to secure a private education, was the only woman allowed to attend Max Planck’s lectures, and was forced to work without salary, as a “guest”, until the age of 35. Thirty years later, she would be passed over for a Nobel prize in favor of her two male colleagues. These were not her only struggles, however. A Jew in Austria during World War II, and a nuclear physicist whose work led to the creation of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, she spent much of her life wrestling with the moral implications of her decisions and her duties to others.

In 1907, after convincing Max Planck to take her on as an assistant, Meitner met Otto Hahn, a talented chemist who would become her close collaborator for the next thirty years. Together they found several isotopes (atoms of an element with different numbers of neutrons) and Meitner, on her own, discovered the Auger effect: the release of energy when an inner-shell electron vacancy is filled through the ejection of another electron from the atom. Although Meitner discovered this phenomenon and published it in 1922, the effect was named after and generally credited to Pierre Auger, who discovered it independently in 1923.

In the early 1930s, many notable physicists, including Meitner and Hahn, began bombarding uranium with neutrons in an attempt to create an element heavier than uranium. Although Ida Noddack – another pioneering female physicist – suggested in 1934 that bombarding uranium might occasionally result in nuclear fission, it wasn’t until December 1938 that Hahn discovered experimental proof. Six months earlier, the Jewish Meitner had been forced to flee Austria when it was annexed by Nazi Germany. She continued to collaborate with Hahn from afar, exchanging letters and even meeting clandestinely. She played a vital role, both before and after her escape: she and her nephew Otto Frisch were the first to provide a theory for how a nucleus could split into smaller parts, they discovered why there are no naturally occurring stable elements larger than uranium, and she was the first to apply Einstein’s equation, e=mc2, to predict the massive amounts of energy that would be released by nuclear fission. Despite all her contributions, the Nazis refused to let Hahn credit the exiled, Jewish Meitner in the papers he published. In 1945 Hahn was awarded a Nobel prize for the discovery of nuclear fission.

After leaving Austria, Meitner was offered an opportunity to work on the Manhattan Project, which she adamantly refused, declaring: “I will have nothing to do with a bomb!” She was reportedly surprised and deeply saddened by the use of nuclear weapons on Japan. However, her remorse was focused on her decision to stay in Germany until 1938, and on the decisions of her colleagues to stay in Germany throughout the war. She wrote to Hahn: “You all worked for Nazi Germany. And you tried to offer only a passive resistance. Certainly, to buy off your conscience you helped here and there a persecuted person, but millions of innocent human beings were allowed to be murdered without any kind of protest being uttered.” It is said that Meitner had difficulty sleeping for years after learning about the true nature of the Nazi concentration camps.

In a world not plagued by war, antisemitism and sexism, Meitner’s contributions might have been better acknowledged. Yet despite these obstacles, those contributions were immense. And although Meitner was passed over for a Nobel several times, she has been given an even rarer honor: to find it, look in the back of your chemistry text book, at the periodic table of the elements — element 109, meitnerium.

Wikipedia: Lise Meitner
Ruth Lewin Sime, Lise Meitner, a life in physics (biographical book)
Wired: Lise Meitner, “Our Madame Curie’

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Playing the linkspam card (4th June, 2011)

  • Why White Men Should Refuse to Be on Panels of All White Men: If white, male elites started saying, I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men, chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up—or become more diverse.
  • Not Exactly Avatar Secrets: A Critique of Ramona Pringle’s Research: Ramona Pringle does “research” into people finding love in online games. Flavor Text is not impressed: I think the main issue I take with this – and you addressed it earlier on Twitter – is that the whole thing just smacks of “gamers are human beings, too!” as if this is somehow news. The sky is blue! Fire still hot! Gamers capable of social interaction and forming meaningful relationships!
  • While we’re talking about Flickr groups (This is what a computer scientist looks like is now at 55 photos and counting), photogs here might like to contribute to the New Feminine group, for a diverse range of images of women that show femininity as other than submissive and sexualised.
  • Deconstructing Pointy-Eared White Supremacists: What do we know about elves? They are, generally, portrayed as the ideal: more magical, more beautiful, more in tune with nature. They are older than you but almost immortal… Elves are also very, very white.
  • A Bright Idea – Hack a Day: Our submitter writes: Woman comes up with nifty idea. Site reports about her. Comments filled with the usual She’s hot; and all important Why doesn’t she have a degree?
  • RIP Rosalyn S. Yalow, 89, Nobel winning medical physicist: Dr. Yalow, a product of New York City schools and the daughter of parents who never finished high school, graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College in New York at the age of 19 and was the college’s first physics major. Yet she struggled to be accepted for graduate studies. In one instance, a skeptical Midwestern university wrote: She is from New York. She is Jewish. She is a woman.
  • From 2008 (hey, it’s recent in academic terms…) Budden et al Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors, Trends in Ecology & Evolution: in 2001, double-blind review was introduced by the journal Behavioral Ecology. Following this policy change, there was a significant increase in female first-authored papers, a pattern not observed in a very similar journal that provides reviewers with author information
  • Tropebusting: Matriarchies in Gaming and Sci-Fi/Fantasy: The most prevalent of these tropes is that Matriarchies are Evil, like really, really super-duper EVIL. (Also, hey, bonus elves…)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Magical linkspam sparkles (26th May, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.