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Women in Science

  1. Feb 10, 2005 #1


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    There have been some controversial statements and subsequent discussion in the press and PF lately about the ability of women with regard to science and technology.

    So, I share this - Women in Science Shows

    Hear women talk about why and how they became scientists, their current research, what their everyday lives are like, and what they love about their work.

    Recent radio shows featured Allison Snow, a leader in genetically modified plants and their environmental impacts, Kay Behrensmeyer, who uses fossils to reconstruct ancient ecosystems, Heidi Hammel, whose studies have revealed that Uranus is a dynamic world with changing seasons, and Maureen Raymo, who examines sediments from the sea floor to learn about the climate.

    Other Women in Science Shows

    Adriana Ocampo
    planetary geology

    Mercedes Pascual

    Sally Boysen
    chimpanzee communication

    Sandra Faber
    galaxy formation

    Darleane Hoffman
    unstable elements

    Gretchen Daily
    conservation & economics

    Cady Coleman
    Part 1
    Part 2

    Kay Behrensmeyer
    fossils & ecosystems

    Heidi Hammel

    Maureen Raymo
    sea sediments & climate

    Allison Snow
    genetically modified plants

    Jill Tarter
    Part 1
    Part 2
    search for extraterrestrial intelligence

    Cool, huh? :cool:

    Oh, BTW - Kevlar Inventor Joins Women's Hall of Fame

    Chemical Week, October 8, 2003 — Retired DuPont scientist Stephanie Kwolek, whose research led to the discovery of Kevlar aramid fiber, was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY, on October 4. Kwolek joined DuPont in 1946 as laboratory chemist in Buffalo, NY and spent 40 years with the company, mostly at its experimental station at Wilmington, DE. DuPont says nearly 3,000 law enforcement officers have survived potentially fatal or disabling injuries because they were wearing body armor made from aramid fiber. All U.S. combat soldiers have worn Kevlar helmets since the 1991 Gulf War, it says.

    Kind of makes you proud, doesn't it now. :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 10, 2005 #2


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    Making Hydrogen Fuel

    In his 1874 novel The Mysterious Island, Jules Verne predicted that in the future, people would use water as an energy source. The truth of this prediction for the 21st century -- on Earth and Sky.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2005 (Radio dialog)

    DB: This is Earth and Sky. Some people dream of a future in which cars and electric power plants run on hydrogen.

    JB: Hydrogen fuel could create less pollution than fossil fuels. It might provide virtually unlimited energy. One challenge, though, is creating the hydrogen. Today, hydrogen is typically produced from natural gas. This process takes more energy to create the hydrogen than the user can get back out of it later. It also generates the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. And over time, Earth's natural gas supplies are bound to diminish.

    DB: Karen Brewer is a chemist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. She's working to develop a hydrogen generation system that's energy efficient, inexpensive, clean and renewable. Water is made of hydrogen and oxygen. Brewer recently designed a chemical molecule that splits water. It mimics photosynthesis -- the process that plants use to convert water, sunlight and carbon dioxide into food.

    JB: When Brewer placed a glass jar filled with water and these molecules in sunlight, hydrogen gas bubbled up to the top. Brewer says that anywhere there is sunlight and water, this kind of system could be used to create hydrogen fuel.

    Karen Brewer: I mean, my view is that if everyone in the world had food and energy, then it would be a very peaceful place. . .

    Funny, I think the same way. :cool:
  4. Feb 10, 2005 #3


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    The only women who arent good in science or math are those who chose not to be so because they have fallen under the peer pressure or society's ignorance. Any woman is equal in intellectual capability with a man if she spends equal amount of time studying the same material. Some have an advantage over men, and some just choose not to go on. I personally know OF a few great female engineers and scientists who will be making great discoveries very soon.

    Dont be swayed by the speech given by 'some Harvard guy' - he is just an economist, what does he know?
  5. Feb 11, 2005 #4


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    Astronuc, that's fantastic! Thanks for the heads up! Of course, you don't have to be a woman to benefit from what they have to say. When I was in college, we had a similar series of invited speakers every semester (as a grad student, I helped organize those talks), and the men who attended got just as much out of the talks as the women did. It's good to hear various views of how people got into their careers and what they love about it. When your career path starts to zig-zag, it's good to know you're not the first or last or only one to take a few detours before finding your way.
  6. Feb 11, 2005 #5
    Good links! I remember surfing on Science on Nature sites and found a whole bunch of material on women in science. Now I couldn't find it, but I found this:

    All kinds of stuff in there.

    My personal experience comes from looking at my girlfriend's path. She is studying law, in which gender bias is, if possible, even more common than in science.
  7. Feb 11, 2005 #6


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    The San Diego Supercomputer Center presents

    Women in Science

    Rosalind Elsie Franklin
    Pioneer Molecular Biologist

    Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin
    A Founder of Protein Crystallography

    Grace Murray Hopper
    Pioneer Computer Scientist

    Maria Goeppert-Mayer
    Nobelist in Physics

    Helen Sawyer Hogg
    A Gift of Stars

    Rózsa Péter
    Founder of Recursive Function Theory

    Roger Arliner Young
    Lifelong Struggle of a Zoologist

    May Edward Chinn

    Emmy Noether
    Creative Mathematical Genius

    Lise Meitner
    A Battle for Ultimate Truth

    Lillian Moller Gilbreth
    Mother of Modern Management

    Annie Jump Cannon
    Theorist of Star Spectra

    Rosa Smith Eigenmann
    "First Woman Ichthyologist of Any Accomplishments"

    Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace
    Analyst, Metaphysician, and Founder of Scientifc Computing

    Mary Anning
    Finder of Fossils

    Sophie Germain
    Revolutionary Mathematician
  8. Feb 15, 2005 #7
    Anthrolpology would disagree. There are certain tasks by default men are smarter, and there are some topics by default women are smarter.

    It all dates back to the time we were hunter-gatherers. While the men went out to hunt, the women stayed back to watch the camp. Men developed more spatial reasoning needed for their tasks as hunters, and more mathematical abilities.

    Women's minds took a different route. Women stayed behind and took care of the kids and talked amongst each other. Women shared stories and taking care of kids lead to a better grasp in language than men. It doesn't take a whole lot language grasp to hunt a meal, but to raise kids and socialize with the group needed a much better grasp of language.

    Men and women have brains almost identical, but there are certain things by default each gender has a better grasp. This is because their brains are wired for this. By default women are better at language and emotion while men are better at mathematics and spatial reasoning.

    It doesn't mean that men are superior to women or women are superior over men. That is just differences between genders. Just like how women are more emotional and men are less caring. It is all based on gender differences.

    Now does that mean a woman cannot become great in science or a man cannot be great in literature? No it doesn't, but usually a man would have to work harder than a woman to have better language capabilities while women have to work a little harder than men for the same mathematical abilities. Examples of this are Shakespeare in language and you can find a dozen successful women scientists.
  9. Feb 15, 2005 #8


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    Do you have any scientific, and not, um, anthropological, proof of this?

    Do you claim you know the function of the brain, as well as how the memories are stored, retrived, the bandwidth, capacity, and the whole 'diagram' of brain structure?

    You can live on a farm and your entire generation from the early days can be farmers, and then oneday a child is born, moves to a city and goes to school - eventually he has a very good chance, and I know a lot of people, who will go on to become professors, doctors, and engineers. Antropology is a scientific study of cultural development, and is NOT related to intellectual abilities of any given individual.

    By default? According to 'what' by default? According to god or some biblical crap? You are by default an ignoramus
  10. Feb 15, 2005 #9
  11. Feb 15, 2005 #10


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    Where does it say that X and Y chromosome are linked to intellectual capabilities? They simply determine gender, and even that is not yet fully understood as nobody has identified a master gene on Y chromosome that determines male sex - yeah its on Y chromosome somewhere. Which one exactly? Noone knows.

    This article is nice and all.. but if you confront those doctors and psychologists in real life and ask them how memories are stored, retrieved, the functions - they'll mumble something about chemical.. somehow.. "we donno yet" - in fact nobody knows HOW per se, and drawing conclusions just from MRI is not very scientific
  12. Feb 15, 2005 #11
    social construction which causes some sort of a biological evolution overtime?? I'm not too sure about this and its just a personal conjecture, I've never done biology before in my entire life. So i am wondering if biologists comment on this.
  13. Feb 15, 2005 #12


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    But having "different" brain or brain activities does NOT mean they can't do science! This is a major misconception! I would even argue, based on my anecdotal experience, that having another person thinking about the same problem but from a different perspective is a major advantage, not a weakness or a hinderance!

    The issue of not enough or many women doing science should not be link to "different" brain functions, because one would be missing the whole point of diverse analysis and evaluation that is so necessary in science.

  14. Feb 18, 2005 #13
    If one gender is better at something then the other gender I would assume it was due to learnt behaviour rather then something one gender is born with. To find out if this skill (say being good at maths or science in general), was learnt or not; we would have to create a series of long term experiments. But I don’t think you could get the necessary experimental design past the ethics committee of any university or research organization never mind the social services.
    In another realm, professional symphony orchestras in the UK noticed about six years ago they had a large gender imbalance in favour of men. There was the normal arguments about skills, musicality, dedication, quality of sound all favouring men. Even quasi scientific reasoning about left and right hemispheres of the brain being used in a different manner by the two sexes was cited as a reason for this imbalance.

    To see if their selection was gender blind one orchestra held its auditions blind, i.e. without the selection committee being able to see the players, only hearing them. This mode of selection started to recruit more women. Now most of the large orchestras in the UK do their auditions blind, in fact my local orchestra the Halle is now over 50% female and with more women being recruited to play firsts then ever before. Maybe Science needs to learn a little from the Arts.

  15. Feb 18, 2005 #14


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    There are already plenty of studies on this, so this is nothing new. In fact, refer to the Letters to the Editor in the 18th Feb, 2005 issue of Science (online issue out today). The authors made several important citations of several studies that link societal expectations on performance of students. Most importantly, the mentioned:

    .. and the cite this work[1] to justify that statement.

    So there ARE reasons aplenty on why there are disparities on the number of men and women in science. Different brain functions, or biological, is the weakest argument in this whole lot from what I have seen.


    [1] V. Valian, Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1999).
  16. Feb 18, 2005 #15
    I don't think there is any difference between the intellectual abilities of men and women. Whatever differences are there, I'd say they have been created by the society. In general most societies brainwash and pressurise women into starting a family and career is given kind of a secondary status. In my own country, the best academic results at school and high-school level are brought by girls, but unfortunately they are never encouraged into pursuing higher education.

    Otherwise, if you are talking that the differences are due to evolution, I'd completely disagree on that, since we are supposed to be INTELLIGENT and THINKING animals. If everything was due to evolution, then we would still be monkeys and apes!
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2005
  17. Feb 18, 2005 #16


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    You need to QUOTE the posting you are replying to, or else we won't know who is this "you" that you are refering to. If you're refering to me, I think I have made my position abundantly clear that I do not believe that biological, nor evolution, has anything to do with the lack of women in science, or that such things are even a hindrance to science.

  18. Feb 18, 2005 #17
    One thing that may have not been mentioned in this discussion. The feminine brain might be superior to the scientific methods in use, so much so that limiting their intellect to accommodate the way science runs, is just not worth it. It is like saying oh, you want to be a scientist, well we will have to take out half of your brain.

    Women have a much more open access to the imaging, and holistic visualization parts of the mind. The compartmentalization in the sciences is frustrating. Even more frustrating would be compartmentalized funding, where one outcome is being funded, and the entire process it bent to that end. Much of the funding of science comes from highly competitive vested interests, the very nature of this, goes against the synergy that is the "all possible". The highly positive mind, the unlimited mind the holistic mind is an irritant, in such a system. The competition that is present in academia, also goes against a more whole mindset. The entire system of science is set up in this way, it is changing somewhat, maybe it is better at the highest level of endeavor. What if it actually were the case, that women were innately so much better at science, that their presence in the sciences threatens the entire structure of the system?

    In regards to the Scientist with the catalyst that separates Hydrogen from Oxygen, in the bottle. That has a wonderful, and dreadful potential. I remember that we can only have so much Oxygen loose before the atmosphere becomes inflammable. Previously we never imagined that the internal combustion engine, could alter the Earth's environment. I am reminded of Ice Nine in Cat's Cradle. Wouldn't it be something if some sort of aggressive catalyst, say, linked to a biomass were created that entered the biosphere, and vaporized streams, and oceans?
  19. Feb 19, 2005 #18
    I'm sorry, I'm not referring to you at all! I'm referring to the statements made by some of the above members.

    Sorry for the inconvenience!
  20. Feb 19, 2005 #19


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    The Tech Museum of Innovation and Leading Bay Area Women's Organizations Team to Offer Program Encouraging Girls to 'Explore All Things Technical'
    SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ --
    I heard an interview (which I am trying to track down) on the radio which I believe was related to this program. Scientists studied the interaction of parents and children at the exhibits at the museum. They noted that the parents, both mother and father, generally gave more attention to sons than daughters. The sons were given more explanation, discussion, and questions about the science than the daughters. So, clearly there still exists a systemic social bias that promotes boys'/mens' interest in science (and presumably math) over that of girls/women. :mad:

    In the meantime, I was looking for positive examples (evidence if one will) that demonstrate women are quite capable of making significant contributions in math and science and have been doing so for a long time.

    For example - Saturn’s aurora – not as we thought! Comment from UK scientists

    Results which combine data from the joint NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini Huygens space mission and the Hubble Space Telescope, published in Nature today (17th February 2005), reveal that Saturn’s auroras, long thought to be a cross between those of Earth and Jupiter, are in fact different and may even be unique to Saturn. Professor Michele Dougherty from Imperial College is Principal Investigator for the Magnetometer instrument on Cassini and co-author on all three papers. :cool:
  21. Mar 12, 2005 #20


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    Women Pioneers in Science, Technology, Engineering & MathematicsWAMC's special radio programming, on women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (made possible through support from the National Science Foundation).

    See also - 4000 Years of Women in Science

    One can also check out - WAMC's 51%

    Over half the people in the world are women. What women do affects us all. Now, there's a radio program that takes a serious and intelligent look on society's impact on women and their impact on society. 51% is a weekly half-hour of illuminating features and interviews focusing on issues of particular concern to women. Tune to 51% weekly throughout the U. S. on public and community radio stations, some ABC Radio Network stations, Armed Forces Radio stations around the world and on the Internet.

    The program is produced by WAMC/Northeast Public Radio's National Productions in Albany NY in cooperation with Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. Hosts are Dr. Jeanne Kammer Neff, President of The Sage Colleges, and WAMC's Mary Darcy.

    Helen Desfosses is a frequent political and social commentator on 51%. She is also Associate Provost at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the State University of New York at Albany, and President of the Albany Common Council.
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