Science needs to have its #MeToo moment.
Astronaut Peggy Whitson, the world’s most experienced spacewoman, came back to Earth on Saturday night after more than nine months at the International Space Station. Counting all her flights, she has logged 665 days in space.
Source: A record-setter returns to Earth
It started as a group text message among four friends from graduate school about new kids, puppies, and jobs. You know, the successes and struggles that are the building blocks of everyday life.
In the wake of the election, the discussion changed. While everyday life continued, the four friends — all women working in the climate and ecology fields — faced a new reality. Their discussions turned into an email chain, which grew to include a group of women, until finally it spawned a pledge of inclusivity in science and the need for reason in politics that’s now been signed by more than 14,000 women in science.
The group, dubbed 500 Women Scientists, was created in response to President Trump and his anti-science, anti-women comments. Its pledge vows to protect the scientific enterprise from his attacks as well as “build a more inclusive society and scientific enterprise.”
I was scuba certified and exploring the complex and beautiful world below the ocean’s surface by the age of 16. Few get to venture into that world, but many should. My first underwater experience was on a 90-foot wreck dive in the cold, murky waters off the New Jersey Shore; I later had a vibrant, colorful dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately, experiences like those simply will not be available for future generations if we don’t address the threats to our oceans from climate change, pollution and overfishing. With the waters I loved facing such dire straits, I entered a career in science focused on ocean conservation.
Getting here wasn’t always smooth sailing—and when times were tough, I had great mentors of both genders, though I’ve always found it useful to consider the accomplishments of women who succeeded before me.
One of these women is Rachel Carson, who truly struggled to be recognized for her scientific achievements in a gender-biased world. She fought tirelessly against the use of DDT because of its effects on the environment and the birds that she loved. It was rare at that time for women to be on the front lines, and her opposition was deep-pocketed and powerful. So it’s not surprising that she was portrayed by her critics as a hysterical woman, prone to being less rational and more emotional. She was attacked fiercely by the chemical industry and shunned by magazines unwilling to publish her work. But her now-famous book, “Silent Spring,” paved the way for the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 – perhaps her greatest vindication, though it happened long after her death. And her resilience in the face of tough odds continues to inspire many of us today.
Four decades later, the situation for women in science has improved, but there is still a long way to go. The same is true for the business sector and the non-profit sector, in which I work. Fortunately, there has been a lot of progress and I’ve never been more hopeful and confident that times are changing than I am today.
As senior vice president for U.S. oceans at Oceana, I’ve led campaigns that have fought the expansion of offshore oil drilling, reduced cruise ship pollution, promoted shark conservation and more. Most recently, we launched Global Fishing Watch, a groundbreaking new digital tool that allows governments and citizens around the world to improve fishery management to bring back ocean abundance and strengthen food security. I’m proud to be involved in this exciting new era of fisheries management, and I’m here today because of female role models, both past and present.
Today there are many. Their actions, their successes and most importantly, their words of advice have been invaluable to me.
On the double standard that exists for women in the workplace, this quote from Hillary Clinton really stood out for me. She told Susan Page of USA Today, “Any woman who wants to be on the stage — whether in politics or business or journalism or anything — just has to toughen up.” She then added, “If you allow it to define you, if you allow it to adversely impact you and your dreams, then you’re going to be blocked, and you’re going to be blocking yourself.”
The last thing we want to do is to block our own success.
Another source of inspiration is Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti. Minister Susi is a self-made entrepreneur and even created her own airline, Susi Air. But what I love about her is that she is relentlessly fighting against illegal fishing. She has seized, prosecuted and sunk more than 200 vessels caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters—a dramatic but effective tactic to deter bad actors in her country’s waters. Minister Susi is a partner with Oceana in Global Fishing Watch, and spoke at its launch in September.
Women in leadership positions offer us continued inspiration. They inspire us with their strength and their accomplishments.
I hope I can help our resilient oceans return to abundance so that future generations can enjoy their many benefits. I hope that my position can offer one more example to girls and young women beginning their careers— that science is a field for women and that leadership is an opportunity for women as well. I hope more women and girls will explore our oceans and never hesitate to dive into any field that inspires them.
I’m grateful to the women that have shown so clearly that we all have the potential to change the world, and I intend to pass that on.
Jacqueline Savitz is the Vice President for U.S. Oceans at Oceana, where she previously served as senior scientist, senior campaign director and deputy vice president of U.S. campaigns. Prior to her work with Oceana, Savitz served as Executive Director of Coast Alliance, worked as an environmental policy analyst with the Environmental Working Group and worked as an environmental scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
By Isabel (15 year old granddaughter of Newport, Oregon resident and Central Oregon Coast NOW supporters Joseph and Christina). November, 2016
As I open my laptop, I see my familiar screensaver of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon. Every day I see his foot caught in mid-step, his golden visor, but this time, I can hear his famous words laced with static. I can imagine the American flag finding its place in the gray sand. I can feel my own longing to be in his place, to feel the weightlessness, to take my own first steps on martian soil. The picture reminds me of my goals and aspirations.
There is a question that never fails to embarrass me: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s benign to the adult who asks, something to fill the silence in a conversation with a child. The simplicity of the question requires an equally complicated and loaded answer. It requires a release of deepest hopes and an exposition of passions. My answer isn’t typical.
I want to be an astronaut. Since I was young, my parents remember my youthful eyes always finding their way upwards, my head craning back trying to take it all in. I remember books talking of the ice and rock rings of Saturn and TV shows discussing the immensity of black holes. I remember my raw fascination with everything outside of and far away from our own planet. But there are so many other professions a woman like me could pursue. It could be so much easier. I could be a teacher, a musician, a writer; becoming a scientist is just too hard.
Or at least that’s how it feels. In higher education, in the professional field, in the mind of society, there is an underlying bias against women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
We are passing by the days of outright derogation and insults, but we tow these shadows of ideas behind us like bricks. The image of the common scientist is someone who is isolated, nerdy, awkward, naturally gifted—and distinctly masculine. This alienating image and its
negative connotations push away anyone who doesn’t fit, women being the largest group affected.
Where do we see this stereotypical scientist? Where we go to for news, entertainment, and an escape: television. Along with other media sources, television is the number one perpetrator of white lab coats and pocket protectors. Shows like “The Big Bang Theory” portray characters like Sheldon and Raj as smart researchers, but with no social skills. Sheldon is childlike in his tendencies and Raj can’t say a single word to a female. On the other hand, Penny, their female neighbor, is without a college degree and works for minimum wage at a restaurant. The show does include a female researcher, but she is portrayed as less feminine and less womanly than Penny. Since television is a pinnacle of American society, these shows are widely known and watched, further extending negative and non-inclusive stereotypes of scientists.
I’ve felt this weighted past and its ripples. I see it every day in my science and math classes; boys outnumber the girls, we learn about the famous men who shaped science, and in the students who lose confidence. As I get older and my classes become harder, my female peers are shier than their male counterparts and are drained of the confidence to participate in class. Often times, boys will get the answer wrong and proceed to give three more incorrect responses. Most girls in my classes are quiet and reserved. Teachers label them as shy and suddenly all hands raised and answered are attached to a boy and no girl gets the chance. People tell me to be confident and bold and fearless, but when I have to act that way everyday, without interruption, I get exhausted. I get discouraged.
Science is famously called a “boy’s club”, and women rarely break into that. Every person desires an environment with people similar to them, those who share the same experiences. And when a girl goes off to college to find her astrophysics class filled with 30 male
students and only a few women, she has a right to be uncomfortable. Sure, “no pain no gain,” but does it have to hurt? Can’t women push themselves mentally, just like every other student, and try for hours on a math problem, without having to worry if they’ll be ignored the next day when they volunteer an answer? Women avoid “STEM” simply because they struggle to find support groups for themselves.
The most important part of gaining an education or pursuing a career is to have someone behind you, supporting you at every success and failure. I can’t count how many times my mother has helped me refocus when I get stressed under piles of homework. Or how many times stress has brought me to tears and she is there for me, simply an ear to listen. She supports me now, while we are close, but when I grow up, and I move away, who will I find? Maybe my roommate in college will be studying education, music, or writing. We could be the greatest of friends, but when I step foot into that 30-to-none astrophysics class, who is there for me?
Critics say that shyness in women is natural, or that we just don’t like science as much as men do. I can tell you, on a thousand accounts, this is wrong. Take it from my younger self or the women that are leading research in fields from biochemistry to theoretical physics; women like science just as much as men. In the campaign for women, ongoing since Eve came second, an image of frailty and ill-judgement has surrounded leading women as they rise to challenge men in their own game. As the Suffragettes fought for the vote, men claimed the female vote would be clouded by emotions and that women would never care enough to be up to date with current politics. The 19th amendment came and the men were soon proved wrong. Just as we say that racism didn’t pass with the 15th, sexism didn’t with the 19th. Yet, women have continued to be just as capable as the men they work with.
High schools, colleges and scientific organizations around the country are trying to get women to pursue sciences. They see the disparity, and create programs like “Girls Go Tech” and “Chip Camp” aimed to get those of “underrepresented groups” involved in the sciences. These projects are all well-meaning, but the best way to involve women is to change the way we view scientists in American society. Celebrate the women that revolutionized their discipline or industry. Steer away from the scientist stereotypes of antisocial, nerdy men and broaden the public view of what it means to be a scientist and express diversity positively. You can’t change someone’s mental perspective in one day or one seminar, but you can easily shape future generations. Teach and educate our children that women can be scientists and doctors and astronauts just like the men can. The American idea of the scientist is archaic and uninformed; young girls just don’t know that other women are out there, just like them, staring at the stars, wanting so badly to feel their hair float about their head, to bounce from moon rock to moon rock, taking their own first step on unfamiliar soil. America has to take its first steps, but this time on familiar soil, towards progress.
But do I still want to be an astronaut? Have my dreams of space grown up with me as I have? Science is still my passion, I still see the night sky clearer than the sun at noon, but I enter this field with a different perspective than my naive younger self. I know that it won’t be easy. I will be looked at differently than my male counterparts. People will say any scholarships I received or awards or praise I earned will be due, in some part, to my gender. But I come accepting the challenge. I will do what I love for myself. I owe it to the young girl crying with delight when she first saw the moon through her own telescope. I will be proud to know that my successes and failures will be forever preempted with a warning; she is a woman.
When Katherine began at NASA, she and her cohorts were known as “human computers,” and if you talk to her or read quotes from throughout her long career, you can see that precision, that humming mind, constantly at work. She is a human computer, indeed, but one with a quick wit, a quiet ambition, and a confidence in her talents that rose above her era and her surroundings.
“In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong,” she said. Her succinct words belie a deep curiosity about the world and dedication to her discipline, despite the prejudices of her time against both women and African-Americans. It was her duty to calculate orbital trajectories and flight times relative to the position of the moon—you know, simple things. In this day and age, when we increasingly rely on technology, it’s hard to believe that John Glenn himself tasked Katherine to double-check the results of the computer calculations before his historic orbital flight, the first by an American. The numbers of the human computer and the machine matched.
With a slide rule and a pencil, Katherine advanced the cause of human rights and the frontier of human achievement at the same time. Having graduated from high school at 14 and college at 18 at a time when African-Americans often did not go beyond the eighth grade, she used her amazing facility with geometry to calculate Alan Shepard’s flight path and took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon to orbit it, land on it, and return safely to Earth.
I was so proud of Katherine as I sat with hundreds of other guests in the East Room of the White House and watched as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama last year. Katherine’s great mind and amazing talents advanced our freedoms at the most basic level—the freedom to pursue the biggest dreams we can possibly imagine and to step into any room in the country and take a seat at the table because our expertise and excellence deserve it. Katherine, now 97, took her seat without fanfare. As far as not being equal was concerned, she said, “I didn’t have time for that. My dad taught us ‘you are as good as anybody in this town, but you’re no better.’ ” I’d posit that Katherine was better—not only at math but also at applying her talents with the precision and beauty possible only in mathematics. She achieved the perfect parabola—casting herself to the stars and believing she could chart the journey home.
Don’t Heed the Haters: Albert Einstein’s Wonderful Letter of Support to Marie Curie in the Midst of Scandal
“If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.”
BY MARIA POPOVA
Few things are more disheartening to witness than the bile which small-spirited people of inferior talent often direct at those endowed with genius. And few things are more heartening to witness than the solidarity and support which kindred spirits of goodwill extend to those targeted by such loathsome attacks.
In 1903, Marie Curie (November 7, 1867–July 4, 1934) became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. It was awarded jointly to her and her husband, Pierre, for their pioneering research on radioactivity. On April 19, 1906, she was widowed by an accident all the more tragic for its improbability. While crossing a busy Parisian street on a rainy night, Pierre slipped, fell under a horse-drawn cart, and was killed instantly. Curie grieved for years. In 1910, she found solace in Pierre’s protégé — a young physics professor named Paul Langevin, married to but separated from a woman who physically abused him. They became lovers. Enraged, Langevin’s wife hired someone to break into the apartment where the two met and steal their love letters, which she promptly leaked to the so-called press. The press eviscerated Curie and portrayed her as “a foreign Jewish homewrecker.”
Upon returning from a historic invitation-only science conference in Brussels, where she had met Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879–April 18 1955), Curie found an angry mob in front of her home in Paris. She and her daughters were forced to stay with a family friend.
Einstein considered Curie “an unpretentious honest person” with a “sparkling intelligence.” When he got news of the scandal, he was outraged by the tastelessness and cruelty of the press — the tabloids had stripped a private situation of all humanity and nuance, and brought it into the public realm with the deliberate intention of destroying Curie’s scientific reputation.
A master of beautiful consolatory letters and a champion of kindness as a central animating motive of life, Einstein wrote to Curie with wholehearted solidarity and support, encouraging her not to give any credence to the hateful commentaries in the press. The letter, found in Walter Isaacson’s terrific biography Einstein: His Life and Universe (public library), is a testament to the generosity of spirit that accompanied Einstein’s unparalleled intellect — a masterwork of what he himself termed “spiritual genius.”
Einstein, who would later remark that “Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the only one whom fame has not corrupted,” writes:
Highly esteemed Mrs. Curie,
Do not laugh at me for writing you without having anything sensible to say. But I am so enraged by the base manner in which the public is presently daring to concern itself with you that I absolutely must give vent to this feeling. However, I am convinced that you consistently despise this rabble, whether it obsequiously lavishes respect on you or whether it attempts to satiate its lust for sensationalism! I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intellect, your drive, and your honesty, and that I consider myself lucky to have made your personal acquaintance in Brussels. Anyone who does not number among these reptiles is certainly happy, now as before, that we have such personages among us as you, and Langevin too, real people with whom one feels privileged to be in contact. If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.
With most amicable regards to you, Langevin, and Perrin, yours very truly,
Shortly after the scandal, Curie received her second Nobel Prize — this time in chemistry, for her discovery of the elements radium and polonium. To this day the only person awarded a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, she endures as one of humanity’s most visionary and beloved minds. The journalists who showered her with bile are known to none and deplored by all.
Complement with Kierkegaard on why haters hate and Anne Lamott’s definitive manifesto for how to handle them, then revisit Mark Twain’s witty and wise letter of support to Helen Keller when she was wrongly accused of plagiarism and Frida Kahlo’s compassionate letter to Georgia O’Keeffe after the American painter was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown.
A whole lot of shaking going on for girls in Lincoln County Oregon, thanks to the Central Oregon Coast NOW Foundation with funding from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund!
The FREE Earthquake Camp will provide Central Oregon Coast middle school girls with the opportunity to explore the world of earthquakes using skills in engineering geology and math!
Girls will learn about plate tectonics, great earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, and even how to locate earthquakes! And, the girls will build their own working seismometer with a simpleamplifier circuit capable of recording nearby earthquakes!
An important part of learning about earthquakes is understanding the hazards they present. So the girls will learn how buildings can “resonate” in an earthquake. They will learn how liquefaction occurs. And how engineers strengthen buildings to make them more resilient to earthquake shaking.
The camp will wrap up by teaching the girls the steps to take to make sure they and their families are safe, and they will build an earthquake/ tsunami preparedness “go-bag” that they will be able to take home.
The FREE three day Earthquake Camp will be held at the Oregon Coast Community College North Campus in Lincoln City from Monday through Wednesday, July 18 to 20, 2016, 10 am to 3 pm
For more information contact Janice Eisele at 503-965-9950 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, fill out the application form and mail to Central Oregon Coast NOW, P.O. Box 354, Depoe Bay, OR 97341.
Published April 27, 2016, Newport News Times, Page 10
|The purpose of the 3-day camp is two-fold: to educate girls about the potential of earthquakes in the Pacific NW, and to encourage girls to consider a career in the sciences.|
by Jan 13, 2016 • 11:16 AMon
The women who comprised 50 percent of NASA’s astronaut class of 2013 might be headed to Mars!
Handpicked from over 6,000 applicants, astronauts Christina M. Hammock, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Anne C. McClain, and Jessica U. Meir completed two years of intense training, mastering skills like T-38 supersonic jet piloting, negotiating tasks while submerged in deep water, and enduring rides in the “vomit comet,” an aircraft that simulates weightlessness via free fall.
The women will now join NASA’s existing 49-strong elite corps of astronauts, contributing specialized skills acquired through advanced degrees in biology and engineering as well as extensive, branch-diverse military experience. They are all also eligible to compete for a seat aboard NASA’s first manned mission to Mars projected to launch in some 15 years.
Making up four out of the eight astronauts selected for the program, the women of NASA’s class of 2013 mark the first time in the program’s 55-year history that men and women have been equally represented. They are also a part of NASA’s smallest group to date despite the agency receiving the largest number of applications since 1978—a detail Janet Kavandi, NASA’s director of flight crew operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston attributes to the need for qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds and “a broad spectrum of experiences.”
While women may possess certain biological advantages and bring unique skills and strengths to space travel, according to Kavandi, the women were not chosen for their gender. “We never determine how many people of each gender we’re going to take, but these were the most qualified people of the ones that we interviewed,”Kavandi said following NASA’s announcement of the 2013 class. “They earned every bit the right to be there.”
For astronaut McClain, a helicopter pilot and West Point graduate who can’t “remember ever wanting to be” anything other than an astronaut, the opportunity to blast off to Mars holds the promise of gaining a new perspective on our world.
“From space, you can’t see borders,” said McClain. “What you see is this lonely planet. Here we all are on it, so angry at one another. I wish more people could step back and see how small earth is, and how reliant we are on one another.”
Media Resources: New York Times 6/18/13, 1/11/16; PBS NewsHour 11/20/14; Space.com 6/18/13
JAN 12, 2016
One of the things the brilliant minds at MIT do — besides ponder the nature of the universe and build sci-fi gizmos, of course — is notarize aircraft airworthiness for the federal government. So when Sabrina Pasterski walked into the campus offices one cold January morning seeking the OK for a single-engine plane she had built, it might have been business as usual. Except that the shaggy-haired, wide-eyed plane builder before them was just 14 and had already flown solo. “I couldn’t believe it,” recalls Peggy Udden, an executive secretary at MIT, “not only because she was so young, but a girl.”
OK, it’s 2016, and gifted females are not exactly rare at MIT; nearly half the undergrads are women. But something about Pasterski led Udden not just to help get her plane approved, but to get the attention of the university’s top professors. Now, eight years later, the lanky, 22-year-old Pasterski is already an MIT graduate and Harvard Ph.D. candidate who has the world of physics abuzz. She’s exploring some of the most challenging and complex issues in physics, much as Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein (whose theory of relativity just turned 100 years old) did early in their careers. Her research delves into black holes, the nature of gravity and spacetime. A particular focus is trying to better understand “quantum gravity,” which seeks to explain the phenomenon of gravity within the context of quantum mechanics. Discoveries in that area could dramatically change our understanding of the workings of the universe.
Among the many skills she lists on her no-frills website: “spotting elegance within the chaos.”
She’s also caught the attention of some of America’s brightest working at NASA. Also? Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com and aerospace developer and manufacturer Blue Origin, who’s promised her a job whenever she’s ready. Asked by e-mail recently whether his offer still stands, Bezos told OZY: “God, yes!”
But unless you’re the kind of rabid physics fan who’s seen her papers on semiclassical Virasoro symmetry of the quantum gravity S-matrix and Low’s subleading soft theorem as a symmetry of QED (both on approaches to understanding the shape of space and gravity and the first two papers she ever authored), you may not have heard of Pasterski. A first-generation Cuban-American born and bred in the suburbs of Chicago, she’s not on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram and doesn’t own a smartphone. She does, however, regularly update a no-frills website calledPhysicsGirl, which features a long catalog of achievements and proficiencies. Among them: “spotting elegance within the chaos.”
Pasterski stands out among a growing number of newly minted physics grads in the U.S. There were 7,329 in 2013, double the four-decade low of 3,178 in 1999, according to the American Institute of Physics. Nima Arkani-Hamed, a Princeton professor and winner of the inaugural $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize, told OZY he’s heard “terrific things” about Pasterski from her adviser, Harvard professor Andrew Strominger, who is about to publish a paper with physics rock star Hawking. She’s also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from the Hertz Foundation, the Smith Foundation and the National Science Foundation.
Pasterski, who speaks in frenetic bursts, says she has always been drawn to challenging what’s possible. “Years of pushing the bounds of what I could achieve led me to physics,” she says from her dorm room at Harvard. Yet she doesn’t make it sound like work at all: She calls physics “elegant” but also full of “utility.”
Despite her impressive résumé, MIT wait-listed Pasterski when she first applied. Professors Allen Haggerty and Earll Murman were aghast. Thanks to Udden, the pair had seen a video of Pasterski building her airplane. “Our mouths were hanging open after we looked at it,” Haggerty said. “Her potential is off the charts.” The two went to bat for her, and she was ultimately accepted, later graduating with a grade average of 5.00, the school’s highest score possible.
An only child, Pasterski speaks with some awkwardness and punctuates her e-mails with smiley faces and exclamation marks. She says she has a handful of close friends but has never had a boyfriend, an alcoholic drink or a cigarette. Pasterski says: “I’d rather stay alert, and hopefully I’m known for what I do and not what I don’t do.”
While mentors offer predictions of physics fame, Pasterski appears well grounded. “A theorist saying he will figure out something in particular over a long time frame almost guarantees that he will not do it,” she says. And Bezos’s pledge notwithstanding, the big picture for science grads in the U.S. is challenging: The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey shows that only about 26 percent of science grads in the U.S. had jobs in their chosen fields, while nearly 30 percent of physics and chemistry post-docs are unemployed. Pasterski seems unperturbed. “Physics itself is exciting enough,” she says. ”It’s not like a 9-to-5 thing. When you’re tired you sleep, and when you’re not, you do physics.”