Since her death in 1979, the woman who discovered what the universe is made of has not so much as received a memorial plaque. Her newspaper obituaries do not mention her greatest discovery. […] Every high school student knows that Isaac Newton discovered gravity, that Charles Darwin discovered evolution, and that Albert Einstein discovered the relativity of time. But when it comes to the composition of our universe, the textbooks simply say that the most abundant atom in the universe is hydrogen. And no one ever wonders how we know.
Jeremy Knowles, discussing the complete lack of recognition Cecilia Payne gets, even today, for her revolutionary discovery. (via alliterate)
OH WAIT LEMME TELL YOU ABOUT CECILIA PAYNE.
Cecilia Payne’s mother refused to spend money on her college education, so she won a scholarship to Cambridge.
Cecilia Payne completed her studies, but Cambridge wouldn’t give her a degree because she was a woman, so she said fuck that and moved to the United States to work at Harvard.
Cecilia Payne was the first person ever to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy from Radcliffe College, with what Otto Strauve called “the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.”
Not only did Cecilia Payne discover what the universe is made of, she also discovered what the sun is made of (Henry Norris Russell, a fellow astronomer, is usually given credit for discovering that the sun’s composition is different from the Earth’s, but he came to his conclusions four years later than Payne—after telling her not to publish).
Cecilia Payne is the reason we know basically anything about variable stars (stars whose brightness as seen from earth fluctuates). Literally every other study on variable stars is based on her work.
Cecilia Payne was the first woman to be promoted to full professor from within Harvard, and is often credited with breaking the glass ceiling for women in the Harvard science department and in astronomy, as well as inspiring entire generations of women to take up science.
Cecilia Payne is awesome and everyone should know her.
Math and Science Week!
Chien-Shiung Wu, First Lady of Physics
Chien-Shiung Wu (simplified Chinese: 吴健雄; traditional Chinese: 吳健雄; pinyin: Wú Jiànxióng, May 31, 1912 – February 16, 1997) was a Chinese Americanexperimental physicist who made significant contributions in the research of radioactivity.
Wu worked on the Manhattan Project, where she helped develop the process for separating uranium metal into the U-235 and U-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion. She is best known for conducting the Wu experiment, which contradicted the Law of Conservation of Parity. This discovery earned the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics for her colleagues Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang, and also earned Wu the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978.
Her expertise in experimental physics evoked comparisons to Marie Curie, and her many honorary nicknames include “the First Lady of Physics”, “the Chinese Madame Curie”, and the “Queen of Nuclear Research”.
I’ve never been female. But I have been black my whole life. And so, let me perhaps offer some insight from that perspective, because there are many similar social issues related to access, to equal opportunity that we find in the black community and the community of women in a male dominated — white male dominated — society. And I’ll be brief because I wanna get to more questions. When I look at, throughout my life, I’ve known that I wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old, my first visit to the Hayden Planetarium. I was a little younger than Victor at the time, although he did it before I did. So I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expression of these ambitions. And all I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist, was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of society. Anytime I expressed this interest teachers would say “Don’t you want to be an athlete?” I wanted to become something that was outside the paradigms of expectation of the people in power. And so fortunately my depth of interest in the universe was so deep and so fuel-enriched that every one of these curveballs thrown at me and fences built in front of me and hills that I had to climb, I just reached for more fuel and I kept going. Now here I am, one, I think, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I want to look behind me say, well, where are the others who might have been this and they’re not there? And I wonder. what is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive that others did not? Simply because of the forces of society that prevent it at every turn. At every turn. To the point that I have security guards following me as I go through department stores presuming that I am a thief…I walked out of a store one time and the alarm went off, so they came running to me. I walked through the gate at the same time a white male walked through the gate. And that guy just walked off with the stolen goods, knowing that they would stop me, and not him. That’s an interesting sort of exploitation, what a scam that was…I think people should do that more often! [laughs] So my life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks in the sciences, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them to get where I am today. So before we start talking about genetic differences, you’ve got to come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity. Then we can have that conversation.
Neil deGrasse Tyson (via yayfeminism)
You can watch him deliver this lovely response here.
The question he was answering btw was, “What’s up with chicks in science?” Disgusting.
I love Neil deGrasse Tyson so much.
Applies across so many fields.
Famous Sunset Paintings Reflect Key Air Pollution Events From the Past
“Researchers in Greece recently found that sunset paintings by artists such as J.M.W. Turnerand Edgar Degas accurately reflect contemporary pollution events—specifically, the 54 major volcanic eruptions since 1522. As the industrial age dawned and man-made particles began to fill the air, the paintings tracked that too.”
Learn more from Danna Staaf at KQED Science.
Tracking atmospheric science through fine art? I Louvre this.
This is awesome.
It begins just like the worst examples of cover letters on the Internet: “TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.” But the rest of it is pretty awesome. It turns out it’s a note buried by Paul Walker, an American geologist well known to those in his field today. He built two rock “cairns” in this remote spot, as the discovering scientist, Warwick Vincent of Laval University in Quebec, described them. Walker asks scientists of the future to measure the distance between the two cairns, one of which is located on the Ward Hunt ice shelf. Walker wanted to know whether the ice shelf, the Arctic’s largest, was growing or retreating.
Story by Francie Diep at Popular Science.
Scientists: at least 25% more XhardXcoreX than you.
So-called zombie worms — and yes, they actually exist — like to munch on whale bones for dinner. The creatures also use the bones for shelter. Spread throughout the world’s oceans, zombie worms are quite adept at making the bones of whales and other large marine animals look like Swiss cheese.
But these worms don’t have any mouthparts with which to gnaw the holes. So how do they do it? A study published in the May 1 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that rather than being “bone-drilling” worms, they’re actually “bone-dissolving” worms: The worms’ skin produces acid in large quantities to break down bones.
Even stranger is that the worms lack digestive systems. The study suggests the acid the worms produce frees collagen and other proteins from the whale bones, but how they are broken down and absorbed by the worms is unclear. Tresguerres, along with co-authors Sigrid Katz and Greg Rouse, think that symbiotic bacteria help the animals digest the food.
The headline of this article, Zombie Worms Drill Whale Bones with Acid, is up there with Buddhist ‘Iron Man’ found by Nazis is from space.