Notes From A Queer Engineer: SpaceX Satellite Launches and Librarians Saving the Internet

Notes From A Queer Engineer_Rory Midhani_640Header by Rory Midhani


Good morning, wind chimes! I’m back to work today, dreaming of butter cookies and what I’m going to do with my 2018. Here are some STEM links to ponder as you build out the frameworks of your road maps for your moonshot initiatives. I’m going to strategically lean in to buzzwords to the point of nonsense and obliteration this year!* It’s gonna be great!

(*At work. I’ll spare you guys.)

Lady Scientists

A Mathematician Who Decodes the Patterns Stamped Out by Life — Corina Tarnita deciphers bizarre patterns in the soil created by competing life-forms. She’s found that they can reveal whether an ecosystem is thriving or on the verge of collapse. Super interesting!

The BBC is doing a miniseries on sound with neuroscience professor Sophie Scott

The Remarkable Career of Shirley Ann Jackson

How One Brilliant Woman Mapped the Secrets of the Ocean Floor (National Geographic video about Marie Tharp, not closed captioned)

Mathematician Dr. Hannah Fry was on NPR talking about her book The Indisputable Existence Of Santa Claus: The Mathematics Of Christmas

The Independent: 20 female groundbreakers of 2017

Throwback: remember when Autostraddle talked to SpaceX Engineer Joy Dunn about Falcon 9? So cool. Check out these awesome photos of last week’s Iridium4 launch, which carried 10 Iridium Next communications satellites into orbit. As the first stage of the rocket passed through an area of cold, dry air, the exhaust froze, creating this striking image in the post-sunset glow.

Photographer Erica Kelly Martin captured this amazing view of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket soaring over the palm trees of Hollywood, California after its launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Dec. 22, 2017. Credit: Erica Kelly Martin via Space.com.

Photographer Erica Kelly Martin captured this amazing view of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket soaring over the palm trees of Hollywood, California after its launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Dec. 22, 2017. Credit: Erica Kelly Martin via Space.com.

Meltdown

Brain Drain at the EPA

The departures [including some 300 scientists and environmental protection specialists over the past year] reflect poor morale and a sense of grievance at the agency, which has been criticized by Trump and top Republicans in Congress as bloated and guilty of regulatory overreach. That unease is likely to deepen following revelations that Republican campaign operatives were using the Freedom of Information Act to request copies of emails from EPA officials suspected of opposing Trump and his agenda.

Hundreds of government scientists blocked from attending the largest gathering of Earth, space and climate scientists in the world.

What makes some men sexual harassers? Science tries to explain the creeps of the world.Two things grabbed me here:

  1. All the work is all pretty recent. Psychologist John Pryor‘s “Likelihood to Sexually Harass” scale, described in the article as “a cornerstone of research on sexual harassers,” was developed in 1987.
  2. Louise Fitzgerald, a psychologist at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign who has spent three decades studying the effects of sexual harassment, is pessimistic about the likelihood of #MeToo movement to change anything. “I remember thinking the same thing during the Clarence Thomas hearings, that the cultural moment had come and everything would change,” she said. “But here we are 20-some years later when people are suddenly rediscovering yet again that sexual harassment exists.”

Can’t Hold Us Down

Did You Like or Follow Facebook Pages from a Russian Troll Farm? Use the tool to check your Facebook and Instagram accounts here.

The Librarians Saving The Internet

Learning for EveryBody: Lessons from Susan Burch by Adriana Salerno

PBS: A Map of Gender Diverse Cultures — This is a couple years old and the language is imperfect and clunky. But! I think some of you will really enjoy the little interactive map, which includes such entries as, “Bangala (DR Congo) – In the centuries before European colonists arrived, the Bangala people’s animist beliefs were carried byshamans would dress in women’s clothing in order to gain the ability to solve crimes such as murder.” Murder! I am fascinated, going to read more now.

Protesters march from the Utah State Capitol through downtown Salt Lake City during President Donald Trump's visit Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Roughly 3,000 demonstrators lined up near the State Capitol to protest Trump's announcement of scaling back two sprawling national monuments, and his declaring that "public lands will once again be for public use." (Benjamin Zack/Standard-Examiner via AP / The Salt Lake Tribune.)

Protesters march from the Utah State Capitol through downtown Salt Lake City during President Donald Trump’s visit Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Roughly 3,000 demonstrators lined up near the State Capitol to protest Trump’s announcement of scaling back two sprawling national monuments, and his declaring that “public lands will once again be for public use.” (Benjamin Zack/Standard-Examiner via AP / The Salt Lake Tribune.)

Geekery Grab Bag

Should You Shower in the Morning, or at Night? (Yes.)

Does raising your arm to the sky improve your cell reception? (No.)

Nature’s top 10 videos and podcasts of the year

This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS) – “We take a moment to reflect on the whole of earthling history. This once humble rock spinning lifelessly in space… Without an atmosphere to call its own… Has come quite a long way in the last past 4.5 billion-ish years.”

Five Fun Facts About Reindeer – “Unlike most deer species, both male and female reindeer grow antlers. So we really don’t know the sex of Santa’s reindeer.” Related: this Snopes article, which incorrectly describes the reindeer as having masculine names. Are you seriously going to tell me that “Prancer,” “Vixen,” “and “Blitzen” aren’t drag loving dykes?


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.


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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 203 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. The EPA one as me really worried as I live in California a place known for it’s beauty and pollution(if I remember correctly and incident in Ventura was a small part of why Nixon created the EPA in the first place). It also bothers me that we have people who recently said the air is too clean. Like wtf that is headache inducing.

  2. I can see both sides of the argument when it comes to morning vs. night showers, but I will always be a night showering person. The talk about morning showers helping wake people up made me wonder whether there is a relationship between our choices and whether we are morning or night people.

  3. I love the article about Corina Tarnita, who decodes patterns in nature though mathematics. Thank you, Laura! She’s such a great example of why more women should learn math without fear. I found that a lot of women I talk to have visceral fear of mathematics and physics, due to what I suspect are overly dry and academic forms of teaching. There’s so much beautiful math around us, including funicular forms in bridges and arches.

    Just to bring up two more women scientists (although they are not engineers):
    Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier invented Crispr, the gene editing technology that will change the world.

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