Mining for answers in the ocean’s archives, by @AliyaMughal1

Cross-posted from: Aliya Mughal for NERC
Originally published: 23.05.18

With a death toll of more than 250,000 people, the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 was one of the most devastating disasters of recent history.

It was triggered by an earthquake that struck off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. In 2016, Professor Lisa McNeill led a scientific expedition to investigate where it all began – in the seabed.

Lisa said:

Sampling an earthquake zone in situ is one of the holy grails of modern earthquake studies. Although we now have very sophisticated techniques to remotely record the earthquake process, we really needed to sample the rocks where the real action goes on.

The expedition was conducted by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), which for the past 50 years has been sending scientists, researchers, engineers and technicians across the world to delve into the Earth’s archives.= …

The full article is available here.

Aliya MughalI’m a dedicated follower of wordsmithery and wisdom in its many guises. Reader, writer, storyteller – if there’s a thread to follow and people involved, I’m interested. I’ve built my life around words, digging out the stories that matter and need to be told – about science, feminism, art, philosophy, covering everything from human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, to famine and the aid game in Rwanda, to how the intersection of art and science has the power to connect the disparate forces of humanity with the nanoscopic forces of our sacred Earth. Find me @AliyaMughal1

Angel of Harlem- Kuwana Haulsey

Cross-posted from: Les Reveries de Rowena
Originally published: 12.11.16



“Sometimes Harlem would just do that, you understand. It would open up and reveal itself in a rigorous display of scents, various and commanding, floating its sounds around and above you, where they swirled generously, like autumn colours. In  a while, you couldn’t tell what was what, really, or where the sensations came from.”- Kuwana Haulsey, Angel of Harlem

This is one of the most beautifully-written books I’ve ever read. Inspired by true events, it’s the story of Dr. May Edward Chinn, the first black woman physician in Harlem (in the 1920s). While reading the story, it’s natural to be amazed by how tenacious people can be, especially marginalized women.  Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about hearing about the first person to do something, to gain some sort of achievement. Even now there are always firsts but it’s not until I read this book that I thought more deeply about what being the first black female doctor in Harlem entailed. Not only is she black, she’s also a woman, so the question that entered my mind was this: How do marginalized people, women in particular, continue on despite society telling them from all angles that they are not supposed to be there?


Read more Angel of Harlem- Kuwana Haulsey

15 Year Old Girl Invents No Battery Flashlight Powered by Heat from our Hands

Cross-posted from: Women Rock Science
Originally published: 29.06.13

15 year old Ann Makosinsk from Victoria Canada has invented a flashlight that doesn’t need batteries and instead is powered by the warmth of our hands. She was researching alternative energy methods when she came across the Peltier tile, a tile which generates electricity when cool on one side and warm on the other. She did some calculations and discovered that the energy generated could be enough to power a flashlight. Ann did months of research on transformers and circuitry before coming up with a working prototype. She is a top 14 finalist at the Google Science Fair and is going onto the finals of the competition later this year. 
Read more 15 Year Old Girl Invents No Battery Flashlight Powered by Heat from our Hands

Elsie Macgill: first female aircraft designer in the world and activist

Cross-posted from: Women Rock Science

tumblr_n475b965pZ1s9nn84o1_r1_1280Meet Elsie MacGill, a legend in aircraft design and production and the first female aircraft designer in the world. In 1938 she became Chief Aeronautical Engineer at Canadian Car and Foundry where she led the production and redesign of several planes including the Hawker Hurricane – the plane responsible for the most British victories in WWII. Most of the employees in the factory were women and by the wars end they had produced 1,400 aircraft, a massive feat. Elsie had forged new techniques for aeroplane production and mass production and won the Gzowski Medal for this work.
Read more Elsie Macgill: first female aircraft designer in the world and activist

Meet Marie Tharp the controversial geologist who produced the first ever map of the Ocean floor

Cross-posted from: Women Rock Science
Originally published: 21.11.14


Meet Marie Tharp the controversial geologist who produced the first ever map of the Ocean floor. Her work completely turned geology upside down and proved that the ocean floor was not just a boring flat plane of mud but actually filled with extreme mountains, volcanos, canyons and moving masses. Her most controversial discovery is that of the Mid-Ocean Ridges, chains of moving mountains that cover the entire earth. At that time anyone who believed in plate tectonics or continental drift was considered an idiot, Marie’s work proved that they were in fact real.  “I was so busy making maps I let them argue [….] there’s truth to the old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words and that seeing is believing.“
Read more Meet Marie Tharp the controversial geologist who produced the first ever map of the Ocean floor

Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut in space

I have to admit, I had never heard of Helen Sharman until I saw this tweet from Samantha Gouldson, the official science reporter for our member Jump!Mag last night.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 09.57.33

And, I’m not in the least bit shocked that the British media is erasing Sharman’s record as the first British person in space more than 20 years ago. It’s pretty much par for the course. It’s exactly what the media did when Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013 claiming it was Britain’s first win in 77 years completely erasing Virginia Wade and Ann Jones.

Social media, at least, gets it right.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 09.57.20 Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 09.57.04 Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 09.56.50

The Inimitable Life of Sophie Germain by Women Rock Science

(Cross-posted from Women Rock Science)


This is Sophie Germain, 18th Century physicist, mathematician and philosopher. She is the first person for 200 years to make progress on Fermat’s last theorem and her pioneering theories on elasticity helped build the Eiffel tower. Her journey into science was an unusual one, as a teenager, she had to fight her parents for the right to read books and as an adult she had to pretend to be a man to take university courses. Despite her amazing work she was not included in the list of 72 French architects and scientists whose names are inscribed in the Eiffel tower.


Sophie was born in 1776 to a wealthy Parisian family. Her parents did not approve of girls receiving an education and banned Sophie from studying. This was a huge point of conflict as Sophie was obsessed with mathematics, particularly the theories of the ancient Greeks. Her parents even went so far as take away her heat, clothing and lights so that she couldn’t sneakily study at night as she had been caught doing many times. Her parents eventually surrendered when they found her in the middle of the night, reading, freezing naked with a burnt out candle stub. From this moment on they let her continue to study and her father even went on to support her financially.


Names Inscribed in the Eiffel Tower

At 18 a new technical University opened in the city. Sophie wished to go but was barred entry as she was a woman. Just like before, Sophie wasn’t going to take no for an answer. She used the identity of a former male student Monsieur Le-Blanc to write into the university and request lecture notes for remote learning. As the course progressed, she even began submitting coursework under her new male name. She was excellent although it was this excellence that would get her busted. Le-Blanc’s work was so intelligent, so brilliant that the course supervisor demanded to meet with him. It was then he discovered that Le-Blanc was actually Sophie Germain.

The professors at the university took the identity swap revelations surprisingly well. Though she was not granted a degree she forged strong mentorships with some of the finest mathematicians in France. She pioneered work on the law of vibrating elastic surfaces which made the construction of the Eiffel Tower possible. Several years later, she went on to be the first person to progress in providing the proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem – a problem that had been troubling mathematicians for 200 years.


Fermat’s last theorem img Source: Simon Singh

Despite her achievements, upon her death, her death certificate listed her simply as a single woman with no profession – not a mathematician. Further when the Eiffel tower was built, her name was not included in the list of scientists despite her theories being key in its construction. Sophie didn’t receive a formal school education and her work was often haphazard and lacked formal structure. However it is this very nature that allowed her creativity to flourish and gave her a unique perspective on mathematical problems.


Women Rock Science: A site dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and girls in science


Why should we focus on women in STEM?, by @psycho_claire

Cross-posted from: The Psychology Super Computer
Originally published: 23.09.13

So, the question posed as the title for this post prompted a twitter discussion between myself and a friend the other day. The discuss got a bit heated, which some could see as a bad thing, personally I see it as a consequence of debate between passionate people. What came out of that debate though, is that I’ve thought about this question a lot, I assumed that everyone understood why this is an important issue and why we should be focussing on it now, but it seems that assumption May be wrong. I’ve been thinking about how best to explain it, and so I approached my friend to see if he’d be ok with me writing a post on this subject. I want to make clear, this is in no way a continuation of some imagined disagreement. He’s happy for me to write this, and I’m looking forward to coffee with him soon. There’s no personal vendetta here.

Right, so that’s the disclaimer out of the way. 🙂

Before I explain the why. I suppose I’d better explain the what. What is the women in STEM issue. For those that don’t know STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. And currently we have a problem in STEM subjects and careers. That problem is the low uptake of women. This is not just a recruitment problem, in fact you could argue it’s not a recruitment problem at all. Since girls tend to like and do well in STEM subjects through high school. The women in STEM problem is being referred to as the “leaky pipeline” – at each further stage of education and career progression the proportion of women to men drops. It starts at A-levels, with fewer girls doing a-level in STEM subjects despite out performing boys at GCSE level. Fewer still continue to study STEM subjects at undergraduate level, and fewer at post-graduate. This trend continues through career progression, for example in academia, after PhD, fewer women become lecturers, then fewer become senior lecturers; on and on. Women disappear. Despite clear interest and aptitude in STEM subjects they vanish. But we don’t know why. This is the women in STEM problem.

Read more Why should we focus on women in STEM?, by @psycho_claire