jm + astronomy   4

The power of role models
At dinner I asked some of the women to speak to me about this, how astronomy became so (relatively) egalitarian. And one topic became clear: role models. Astronomy has a long history of women active in the field, going all the way back to Caroline Herschel in the early 19th century. Women have made huge contributions to the field. Dava Sobel just wrote a book about the women who laid the foundations for the discovery of the expansion of the universe. Just a couple of weeks ago, papers ran obituaries of Vera Rubin, the remarkable observational astronomer who discovered the evidence for dark matter. I could mention Jocelyn Bell, whose discovery of pulsars got her advisor a Nobel (sic). The most famous astronomer I met growing up was Helen Hogg, the (adopted) Canadian astronomer at David Dunlap Observatory outside Toronto, who also did a fair bit of what we now call outreach.

The women at the meeting spoke of this, a history of women contributing, of role models to look up to, of proof that women can make major contributions to the field.

What can computing learn from this? It seems we're doing it wrong. The best way to improve the representation of women in the field is not to recruit them, important though that is, but to promote them. To create role models. To push them into positions of influence.
software  women  feminism  role-models  gender-balance  egalitarianism  astronomy  computing  rob-pike 
february 2017 by jm
the "Unknown Pleasures" cover, emulated in Mathematica
In July 1967, astronomers at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, observed an unidentified radio signal from interstellar space, which flashed periodically every 1.33730 seconds. This object flashed with such regularity that it was accurate enough to be used as a clock and only be off by one part in a hundred million.

It was eventually determined that this was the first discovery of a pulsar, CP-1919.  This is an object that has about the same mass as the Sun, but is the size of the San Francisco Bay at its widest (~20 kilometers) that is rotating so fast that its emitting a beam of light towards Earth like a strobing light house! Pulsars are neutron stars that are formed from the remnants of a massive star when it experiences stellar death.

A hand drawn graph plotted in the style of a waterfall plot, in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy, later became renown for its use on the cover of the album "Unknown Pleasures"  by 1970s English band Joy Division.

The entire blog at is pretty great. Lots of nice mathematical animated GIFs, accompanied by Mathematica source and related ponderings.
maths  gifs  animation  art  unknown-pleasures  mathematica  cp-1919  pulsars  astronomy  joy-division  waterfall-plots  cambridge  blogs 
december 2014 by jm
Sweden Solar System
the world's largest permanent scale model of the Solar System. The Sun is represented by the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, the largest hemispherical building in the world. The inner planets can also be found in Stockholm but the outer planets are situated northward in other cities along the Baltic Sea. The system was started by Nils Brenning and Gösta Gahm and is on the scale of 1:20 million.

(via JK)
scale  models  solar-system  astronomy  sun  sweden  science  cool  via:jk 
august 2014 by jm

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