Notes From A Queer Engineer: Nerd Utopias, Drone Sheep Videos, and a Penguin Expert

Notes From A Queer Engineer_Rory Midhani_640

Header by Rory Midhani

In between video games and board games this weekend, a group of friends and I watched Sean Wasabi’s OTTER POP video together. Two things happened: 1.) I got the Otter Pop song stuck in my head for the next three days, still going strong. Can’t stop won’t stop. 2.) My girlfriend pointed out, “People wonder what everyone would do if we had universal basic income. It’s this.”

I don’t have any science to support that statement, but it definitely feels true! Universal basic income = more people getting into weird, nerdy hobbies. What a utopia. I’m 100% here for it.

Lady Scientists

+ Laurie Winkless on SciFoo, an invite-only ‘unconference’ held at the Googleplex

+ Penguin expert Dr. Michelle LaRue discusses her adventures and new findings

Cathy O’Neil‘s TED talk on “weapons of math destruction” and why the era of blind faith in big data must end

Dr. Ellen Roche has won international acclaim for her work in creating a soft robotic sleeve for patients who live with heart difficulties

+ BBC 100 Women: Nine things you didn’t know were invented by women. Windshield wipers! Who knew.

Dr. Rima Jabado is saving sharks in the Middle East

+ At 72, acclaimed scientist Diana Beresford-Kroeger still goes from continent to continent hunting for old trees. Interesting perspective, not at all what I was expecting to read.

an older white woman wearing a shirt that says "CAUTION: Tree Hugging Hope Monger."


+ Here’s a roundup of some science-based articles about extreme weather as it relates to climate change. TLDR: Hurricane Harvey was probably worse because of climate change.

+ Relatedly, here’s an opinion piece by Sarah Myhre:

If I had known how to advocate for the people of Houston, I would have. What does it even mean, to advocate? Both a noun and a verb, it is both an act and an identity. It seems banal—simply the public support of a cause. However, it is hugely problematic in my circles, where the rubber of science hits the road of the real world, of lives and dollar bills and power. Did you know it’s seen as compromising for a scientist to be an advocate? That’s right, public dispassion is required for this club, unless, of course, you are willing to risk the derision of your peers. Indeed, the term “advocate scientist” is used as an insult.

I cannot possibly divest myself from myself. Public experts should not be expected to contort themselves into a pretzel of objectivity; you can be a scientist and be a human being at the same time. But, if we are to actually look directly at the enormous and necessary task of greenhouse gas emission reduction, then scientific advocation is fundamental. It is the gateway. We must, together, advocate for our shared future—a cooler, safer, saner future we are all invested in.

+ Fire Ants Are Yet Another Hazard in Houston’s Flooded Streets

+ Three reasons why pacemakers are vulnerable to hacking

Can’t Hold Us Down

+ When Antarctica stopped being only for men: how toxic ideas about masculinity blocked women’s access to Antarctic science

an insect that looks like a flower

Spiny Flower Mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergi). Via @suncana on iNaturalist. Here’s a Mental Floss article with 8 facts about these insects.

+ ICYMI: A Community for Moms to Learn How to Code Has Emerged

STEM.I.AM coding workshops help Indigenous girls learn a new language

Geekery Grab Bag

+ Hey, watch this soothing video of sheep taken by a drone.

+ GrrlScientist: Almost All Modern Horses Descended From A Few Oriental Stallions

+ An enormous black hole one hundred thousand times more massive than the sun has been found hiding in a toxic gas cloud wafting around near the heart of the Milky Way. If the discovery is confirmed, the invisible behemoth will rank as the second largest black hole ever seen in the Milky Way.

Here’s a neat geometry thing!

Do Make Say Think

+ Here’s a crowdsourced Google doc syllabus of women/gender nonconforming folks writing about tech

+ How to use common cognitive biases to increase website conversions

How to talk to an anti-vaxxer parent (and why you should). Activism through gentle conversation is fine! You’re not going to die!

+ Call For Articles – Game Studies Special Issue: “Queerness and Video Games: New Critical Perspectives on LGBTQ Issues, Sexuality, Games, and Play”

Notes From A Queer Engineer is a recurring column with an expected periodicity of 14 days. The subject matter may not be explicitly queer, but the industrial engineer writing it sure is. This is a peek at the notes she’s been doodling in the margins.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Laura Mandanas

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 210 articles for us.


  1. Do I really need to talk to the anti-vaxxers? Ugh, okay. Just because you’re insisting, Laura…

  2. I think I have some anti-vaxxers in my family, after one of their nieces was diagnosed with autism, and the parents blamed the vaccination(though that Disneyland outbreak may have changed things). All my friends who are Psych majors shook their head, because they know the parents were probably vaccinated(they were), as were all their siblings are relatives their age(we were) and had no complications due to vaccination.

    I just saw this article and think it’s relevant to this column and site.

Comments are closed.