I was just on the American Journal of Physics website and I noticed that they had made this 1976 article, from Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez, freely available to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. So very interesting.
Associate Professor Bradley Siwick, a Canada Research Chair in Ultrafast Science, delivered a Cutting Edge Lecture in Science in January (I’m falling behind on my posts!): Lights, action, camera – Making movies of molecules and materials. I have a background in microbiology so I was keen to hear about some of the tools and techniques that he has been using in his lab.
During his talk he pointed out how the 20th century was all about the development of new tools, like the electron microscope (one of the greatest Canadian inventions, as voted on by CBC watchers, just six spots behind the poutine). In the 21st century we can expect to see scientists pushing the limits of these tools. His research is taking a novel approach to electron microscopy, using femtosecond lasers to produce ultrashort/ultrafast pulses.
Visit Bradley Siwick’s research site to learn more.
I highly recommend attending one of the upcoming lectures as well, if you get the chance.
Close your eyes and picture an engineer. What do you see? A man in a suit? A young lad in a hoodie? A train driver?
Or do you picture a woman?
When a female such as myself enrols in college and selects a major such as engineering, the reactions she hears range from “Really? I would never have thought so” to “Wow, you must be REALLY smart!”
Indeed, the persistent bias towards women in male dominated fields can be damaging to one’s self-confidence, and self-confidence is something that one needs in order to tackle the growing responsibility as we advance in our careers. Maintaining confidence is crucial to success. However, finding this inner strength becomes a challenge when anatomy determines whether you are taken seriously. Because I am female, I know that I automatically have to prove my worth in such a field. And this is the core of the problem that we face today.
There is no easy way to explain why more women are not encouraged to follow these career paths. I took physics on a whim in high school out of simple curiosity, but had the sheer luck of falling in love with the subject. The difficulty but ability of physics to explain so many things around me – yet with so much left to discover – left me thirsty for more. However, I was perplexed as to why I had never even considered a career in engineering until then; was it because I had never heard of a female engineer on the news? Was it because there was a total of around 7 girls out of 30 in my physics class?
This feeling of perplexity never left me, but I brushed it off. It was not until an exchange I had during a college interview that this nagging feeling came back in full-force. The alumna (who was a successful businesswoman) hit me with the hardest question I’ve ever had to answer in my entire life: “Why do you suppose there are more men than women in the domains of economics, engineering, and math?” I was left speechless.
So I did some research and I began self-reflecting. I read up on the (lack of) women who had received Nobel Prizes throughout history – how in 2012, apart from the European Union, all of the Nobel laureates were men. How, to date, only 43 women have been awarded a Nobel Prize out of 862 people and organisations who have been named laureates. Why? Because three of the prizes are for science. Women faced endless barriers to entering higher education, with no access to labs, no connections, and few opportunities. That was my first clue – opportunity. So my quest to answering my interviewer’s question continued. Books such as “Who Succeeds In Science? The Gender Dimension” by Gerhard Sonnert have furthered my research, categorising the answer to such a question into two models: the deficit model (women are treated differently in science), and the difference model (women act differently in science).
It wasn’t until I saw this advertisement that I began to connect the dots:
The concept of selling engineering/building toys to girls (with the purpose of increasing their confidence in problem-solving and introducing them to engineering) made it so clear to me that the problem lay in social norms and in a culture that has been created over time. And one way to progress is to educate our daughters differently. When one walks through a girls’ toy aisle, it is pink and full of barbies, princesses and dolls. The legos sold to girls are a feminized spin-off, featuring pink and purple blocks, and characters that do things like sit at home or run a bakery. We are taught implicitly from a very young age that our goal is to become princesses and/or mothers. I myself loved playing with barbies and other typically girly toys, but I equally loved playing with my brother’s train tracks and legos. It was thanks to him that I was exposed to such toys (that were not gifted to me because I was a girl). And the contrary holds true too – he often came to play barbies with me. With the nature vs. nurture debate aside, there is no doubt that advertisers have capitalised on gender preferences, steering each gender to their specified section and ultimately broadcasting a more general message regarding gender roles and expectations in society. Identity becomes ideology.
So maybe there are millions of girls out there who are engineers. They just might not know it yet. Is it time to “disrupt the pink aisle”?
Progress is being made and times are changing – as my grandmother says, “you don’t give us enough credit, we couldn’t even vote a few years ago!” I therefore try to avoid thinking negatively about the male-female ratio, because ultimately, I believe that it’s all about doing what you love.
So if finding what you love depends on the opportunities presented to you, would you buy your daughter legos?
This amazing image is a crater on Mars taken by a high resolution camera, a High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera to be precise. NASA released it this week, although a space rock caused this crater between July 2010 and May 2012 when they were imaging the site.
The crater is 30 metres in diameter and the resulting explosion threw debris as far as 15 kilometres away.
Visit this site if you’d like it to be your new wallpaper too.
Image from: The University of Arizona
The Turret is going to see a few new bloggers this semester, undergraduate students taking the Communication in Engineering course here at McGill.
To kick this off, it is my great pleasure to welcome Pauline (and her little brother).
We are all looking forward to hearing what Pauline will share with us on The Turret (no pressure!).
There is a new hashtag getting attention this week: #SixWordPeerReview
Researchers are expressing their frustrations with the peer-review process and sharing some interesting six word responses from referees.
Open science publisher, F1000Research, sums it up on Storify and points out how their peer-review model addresses some of the concerns.
CTRF invites authors and presenters from academia, public and private sectors to submit their work to our 49th annual conference in support of this theme.
Authors who wish to present their work at the conference but do not wish to submit a full paper can submit a short paper through the conference’s paper submission website.
Particular interests include, but not limited to, papers about: technological, operational and institutional advances to make transportation systems more economical, efficient and reliable; conflicts between transportation and land use activities and how to overcome them; new models of financing that draw on the resources and efficiency of the private sector while preserving an emphasis on equity, sustainability and safety; and issues concerned with creating appropriate balance in regulating the economics, safety and security of transport, while maintaining Canada’s economic competitiveness.
Abstract Submission Deadline is Tuesday January 28th – see the attached Call for Papers or www.ctrf.ca for details.
It’s time to get your groove on! Get your Mojo working and get in the mood for love! McGill’s Freaky Friday series is sponsoring a love-in of sorts with their Science of Love Competition just in time for Valentine’s Day! Open to undergraduate students in science, the six best one-page proposals on the chemistry, biology or physics of all things love-related will be chosen to deliver a 4-slide 4-minute presentation at Redpath Museum for the McLovin’ Science Prize. The big event will take place on Valentine’s Day (of course!) at 5pm in Redpath Museum and is open to the public. Proposals are due Jan. 31. Please click here for further contest details.
In need of some inspiration to get the juices flowing? Check out the BBC’s Three stages of falling in love page, PositScience’s Your brain in love page, Nature’s blog post reporting on research that confirms the existence of love at first sight and Scientific American’s Illusions of love page. Or check out McGill’s home grown talent from the Mini-Science lectures on Science, Sex and Gender delivered by some of McGill’s most renowned scientists like Chemistry’s own Dr. Joe Schwarcz and Dr. Ehab Abouheif from the Department of Biology.
What could be more romantic than seducing the apple of your eye by showing him or her what an expert you are in love talk and winning the grand McLovin’ Science Prize? Go ahead and wear your heart on your sleeve. Share what you know about the Science of Love!
Image from Arif-nma.com
According to Jason Dunn, fail early and fail often should be the mantra for private industry in order to learn and move forward. He is an engineer and a cofounder of Made in Space, a company with a NASA contract to take 3D printer technology and apply it to space missions.
We have posted before on 3D printers in The Turret, and lately articles on the application of 3D printing in the world of food are everywhere: spooky meat-like bio-pastes, chocolate(!), and NASA’s hopes of using 3D printing to make space food. Made in Space is taking this further and proposing that rather than build equipment needed in space on Earth, and spend decades getting it right, it is possible to build everything in space with 3D printers. We can email hardware to space.
After you watch the video from TEDxTalks, you may want to read the book that inspired Jason Dunn to want to build colonies in space - The high frontier: Human colonies in space by Gerard K O’Neillvideo – that he discussed in a previous TEDxTalk.
I am a big promoter of using concept mapping to access the implicit knowledge that is trapped in our brains. Concept maps are graphic representations of knowledge that facilitate the organization of information, whether it is for a project we are planning or for research we are engaged in. I use the CmapTools software since it also allows me to save concept maps on a server and share them online.
It is, however, not the only technique for concept visualization, which is why I have often turned to the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for inspiration. The table also includes methods for visualizing quantitative data (pie charts, line graphs, etc.) mapped to the alkali metals, methods for information visualization that transform data into images (data maps, flow charts, etc.), strategy visualization used commonly in management (such as stakeholder maps), metaphor visualization to convey insights about information (metro maps, bridges, etc.), and, lastly, compound visualization methods that bring together multiple graphical representation formats. Each element box also has additional information, such as the mode of thinking.
If you have any trouble scrolling over the element boxes and would like to see each of the methods separately, Chris Wallace has implemented an XML page that allows you to hide or view each image and also links out to Google images and Wikipedia entries.
Next week I will be attending the Visual Thinking with Mind-Mapping and Creative Modeling workshop at the School of Continuing Studies. I will be sure to post on what I learn there and share any new resources I come across. If you have any to share please do so in the comments box.
Have fun expressing yourself with these visualization methods!