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Is the LHC an expensive art installation?

There are reams of writing, hours of talks, and TV programs by scientists on the manifestation of beauty in physics and mathematics. Obviously, beauty is a great angle for science communication, but their appreciation for beauty has a pragmatic purpose. From Albert Einstein to Edward Frenkel; Werner Heisenberg to Frank …

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Primal Screams: Sophie Germain’s Mathematical Labors (Women in Science 55)

It’s a well known fact of humanity that the chances of a group of people electing to do something decent and necessary is inversely proportional to the number of people in that group.  We enshrine and attempt to forgive that principle under the banner of Institutional Inertia, but the fact …


Labor pains–Piper Harron’s mathematics thesis

I’ve recommended a lot of books to people over the years for their various merits. I’m recommending that everyone read Piper Harron’s PhD thesis for many of the same reasons. This piece is a primal scream of human struggle and is recognizable to anyone whose ambitions have ever been cut …

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The Women in Science Reading List: The Twenty Best (And Four Not Best) Books To Read and Own

When I first started collecting biographies of female scientists, I thought the genre, thanks to the historical and systemic neglect of the subject matter, would be fun to collect and relatively easy to complete.  Some Curie, some Meitner, a Franklin or two, and done.  Six years later, and my shelves …


Western Science’s Last Breath Before Dying: Hypatia Of Alexandria (Women in Science 49)

By 400 CE, Alexandria was a nervous husk dancing the edge of zealous self-annihilation.  For centuries the intellectual capital of the world, boasting the largest storehouse of scientific and cultural information ever assembled, a succession of paranoid archbishops employing gangs of religious thugs had leveled the centers of learning and …


Ada Lovelace and the Curious Practice of Programming for Non-Existent Computers (Women in Science 45)

What did Ada Lovelace do? She is one of the most fetishized scientists today – at conventions when I’m taking sketch commissions she ranks just behind Tesla (speaking of massively if justifiably fetishized historical figures) and Newton as my most requested scientist.  But when I ask Why Ada Lovelace, I …


Grace Hopper and the Democratization of Computer Programming (Women in Science 35)

In a room across the hall from where I teach, a group of a dozen kids between the ages of nine and thirteen are learning how to program in Python, grasping the basics of the language with what can only be described as freakish ease and comfort. It’s quite a …

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The stars in our cells

A relatively recent study showed that transcription factors tend to hang out in specific areas of the nucleus, clustering like stars in galaxies. And it’s been rattling around in my head as potentially perfect for Mad Art Lab because they do, in fact, cluster like stars in galaxies — the …