Friday, June 14, 2013

What's the Deal? Are Daddy Longlegs Spiders or Not?

I know that spiders are not insects, but in my previous post I brought them up so I'd like to answer my own question.  Because usually when I see something that resembles a spider with very long splindly legs, I get totally freaked out and get away from it before I have any real time to take a good look at it.  You know what I'm talking about:  daddy longlegs.  For some reason, I can tolerate most spiders, but daddy longlegs have always been my personal nightmare.  I literally have had nightmares about DLL (let's just call them that for now) falling on me while I sleep.  But enough about me...let's talk about THEM.


What the heck are daddy longlegs?  Generally, there are two different arachnids that people call DLLs.  One of them is a spider, and one of them is not.  Spiders are a type of arachnid, just like butterflies are a kind of insect; there are lots of other kinds of arachnids, just as there are lots of other kinds of insects.  See?

The figure above shows daddy longlegs as being in the order Opiliones, which are also known as the harvestman.  You run into these guys a lot outside, crawling over leaves and minding their own business.  They are not spiders; their bodies are made up of only one region (spiders have two), and they have two little eyes instead of the usual eight that spiders have. 

The other critter that people call DLLs are spiders, such as the house spider Pholcus phalangioides (see picture below).  These are the ones that hang out in your basement, the corners of your ceiling, and give me nightmares.  They have two body segments and eight eyes, like regular spiders.

Now, what about the deal where people say that DLL have the most poisonous venom but just can't use it because their fangs are too small?  FALSE!!!  I did some checking up on this too, and it turns out that the harvestman has no venom at all, and while spiders in the family Pholcidae do have venom (like most spiders), there is nothing special about it; and in fact, its effect on insects can be relatively mild. 

Well, that answers my questions, do you have any of your own about DLLs?  I will probably still have nightmares about them, but at least they will be informed nightmares.  Just remember - we all have our place in the world with jobs to do, including spiders.  I will do my best to relocate them instead of kill them (or actually, have someone else kill them for me) because it's not their fault that they give me nightmares.  And to be fair, some spiders are kind of cute:

And there are even spiders that are incredibly beautiful (and small, thankfully), including the gorgeous peacock spider.  You can read more about them at It's Okay to be Smart.

Thanks for learning some new things about spiders with me!  What other fun facts can you share about spiders?

Monday, June 3, 2013

I've Been Antsy About Getting The New Issue Out!

Hurray!  It's the start of a new Brainy Girls issue, and for the next two months, we'll be talking about one of my favorite topics...insects!  That's right - we'll be learning all sorts of things about bugs (including true bugs, hemipterans), other insects, and even some other arthropods, and all things wriggly and squirmy!  I'll admit it - when I was younger, insects scared the heck out of me, and I couldn't even tolerate moths or butterflies flittering anywhere near me without running away and freaking out.  However, when I was in college (yes, college), I discovered the underwater world of aquatic insects and was completely mesmerized by a diverse collection of critters that I didn't even know existed.  I then took an entomology class and learned even more about insects in general and today I continue to be amazed by how they've evolved to fill a myriad of ecological niches, or jobs, in the environment.  I will admit that daddy-long-legs still creep me out, although to be fair, they're not insects (but not quite spiders???  I don't know - we'll have to find out...) so if you're not too fond of them either, you're in good company.  It's ok - maybe we can tackle our fears together!

In the previous issue (cycles), I introduced the life cycle of the 17 year cicada, one of my favorite insects. Brood II is emerging all over the East Coast right now, but in case you're not one of the lucky few (relatively) who gets to experience the emergence in person, I've got a treat for you!  Check out this beautiful video that tells the life story of these incredible creatures.  Do you have a favorite insect?  What six-legged animal has crawled its way into your heart?  I want to hear about it!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weathering the Storm

There have been a lot of extreme weather events that have made the news lately, especially tornadoes. When I was growing up, in both Oklahoma and Michigan, I remember going through tornado warnings and having to either bunker down under a desk or huddle in the hallway at school, once for an entire day.  It certainly was an experience that stuck with me, and is one reason that I will never live in the midwest again.  This kind of weather happens on a yearly cycle, and extreme weather events are predicted to get worse as our climate changes

Why is the tornado season cyclic?  Tornadoes actually don't have a season per se, but can occur any time and anywhere.  However, they are more common in the springtime when the jetstream brings together warm moist air (such as from the Gulf) and cold dry air (such as from the Arctic).  When winds at higher altitudes blow in the opposite direction of the winds near the ground, rising warm air gets twisted in the opposite direction and creates a funnel.  There's a little more to it than that, but that's the basic concept.  You can read more about tornadoes and tornado preparedness here.

When warm moist air collides with cold dry air and is given a spin by the jet stream,
the result can be a tornado.  Figure from NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Tornadoes can happen any time of year.  Where are you located on this map?
Figure from

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meeting New Role Models and Finding Inspiration

Monday was a very exciting and inspiring day for Brainy Girls!  As you probably know, one of the reasons I started this online magazine was to engage girls in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) community.  One of the best ways to do this, I think, is to provide strong role models for girls who can show girls (and boys) that women are needed in STEM fields and that they are capable and supported in pursuing their goals.  With every issue of this online magazine, I feature a woman with an interesting career who can demonstrate to girls that they really can do anything they put their minds to (you can read about Brenda Moraska LaFrancois, aquatic ecologist for the National Park Service, here). 

So, perhaps you can imagine my excitement when I attended the Pacific Northwest Girls Collaborative Project conference "Increasing Impact: Engaging Girls in STEM by Building Capacity" at Seattle University just a couple of days ago.  I was SO IMPRESSED by a panel of undergraduate science majors who talked about their experiences in pursuing science education, overcoming hurdles, and their incredible enthusiasm for the subjects they are studying.  Each one of these young women has something to share with girls who might one day follow in their footsteps, and I'm hoping that I might engage at least one of them to contribute to a Brainy Girls article for you!

Undergraduate science majors from Seattle University share their
experiences in pursuing a career in science.  What great role models!

In addition to meeting these bright and inspiring young women, I also met other professionals who (like me) are trying to engage girls in STEM fields.  I can't wait to collaborate with them on some projects, so you'll have to stay tuned for what might come down the road in the future!  Finally, I learned a lot about fundraising, and how I might get some financial support for running Brainy Girls, which I'm finding could be a full-time job if I had the resources.  The day was filled with inspiring ideas, potential for collaborative relationships, and I'm so glad that I was able to attend! 

I was so happy that my friend Kellie (left), a high school math teacher,
came to the conference with me!  We had a blast!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Remembering the Great Swarmageddon of 1987

Prints from Anderson Design Group
Have you heard the news?  It's on the horizon...yes, the 17 year cicadas are coming!  Brood II, in fact, will be upon the East Coast at any time.  But it will be ok - you'll be ok - everyone will be ok.  I know because I was there another time, another place.

The year was 1987.  I was a seventh grader at Washington Irving Middle School in Springfield, Virginia.  The summer was upon us - hot and humid, and quiet but for the trees whispering in the wind.  But this quiet would not last, oh no, because the Brood X 17 year cicadas were to emerge that summer...flooding the air with their chirping drone, loud enough to keep me awake at night when I needed the windows open to cool my bedroom.  It must've been June when the cicadas arrived...when their song first announced their presence.

At first I was scared.  At that age, I did not particularly like insects, especially large ones, and especially ones that could fly.  But there was no avoiding them.  As I walked to the bus stop in the morning, they were everywhere - covering the trees, on the ground...there were shed exoskeletons littering the grass.  In some areas, you could not avoid walking on them.  But as I was forced to coexist with these creatures, I discovered that they were fascinating - they had these beady red eyes, black bodies and clear wings - and they were actually kind of cute.  They didn't move fast, which I also liked.  It was easy to pick them up - I can still remember how their jagged legs clung to my hand. 

And before I knew it, they were gone.  Their bodies remained, but their mission had been accomplished: they mated, and died.  They would not return for another 17 years, and the cycle continued. 

Cicadas are amazing insects with a unique life history strategy.  Want to read more?  Check out the article I wrote that describes how these creatures live and die.  And don't be afraid - these incredible animals are a part of our ecosystem and are a sign of healthy forests.  Embrace the beautiful cicada, in all its red-eyed chirping glory! 

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Giving a glimpse of women doing science!

I was a little nervous, to say the least, about stepping foot inside a middle school after all these years, but the afternoon I spent at Shahala Middle School was an enormous amount of fun!  Set up by the school's guybrarian Paul Warner, I got to give a presentation to a group of 7th grade girls during the school day, then a group of 6th-8th graders after school.  My presentation focused on women in science, and started with a word association exercise with the words "science" and scientist".  I was really happy and impressed by the amount of engagement I had with the girls! 

The best part of my presentation was when I asked for five volunteers to stand in as five of my favorite scientists, i.e., Ada Lovelace, Rosalind Franklin, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, and Sally Ride.  After talking about each of these scientists, I asked the audience to give each scientist stand-in a corresponding prop, like an abacus for Ada Lovelace, a stuffed chimp for Jane Goodall, and you can imagine the rest.  And then, I turned their name tags around and asked the girls to recall the scientists' names, which they did!  I was so proud of them, and I gave all the participants Brainy Girls buttons and bookmarks.

The last part of the presentation was revisiting the whiteboard to add more words around "scientist".  We now had men and women represented, along with a wider variety of science fields.  Yay!

I think the girls had a good time, and I had so much fun - I can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

As RuPaul Says, Girl, You've Got to Work It!

I'm very excited to announce a brand-new Work It! featuring my good friend, Brenda Moraska LaFrancois.  Brenda is an aquatic ecologist and works for the National Park System where she studies all kinds of CYCLES!  In her interview, Brenda talks about some of the cool projects she's been involved with, the interesting skills she's had to develop, AND, who she would invite to a dance party if she could invite anyone in the world.  Brenda will probably want to kill me for including this picture, but this is us back in 2001 at an Oscar Party (Brenda's the one on the left).  Rawrrr!

Anyway, please do take a few moments to meet Brenda.  She's an amazing woman, and I know that you'll be inspired by her work and enthusiasm, just as I am.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

10 Things You Didn't Know About Bicycles!

Bicycles are cycles in the truest sense of the word, and today I have some fun facts to share with you about the history of the bicycle and how bikes are used today.  Ready...set...go!

10.  The "modern" bicycle was fitted with pedal cranks and iron rims in 1840 by a Scottish blacksmith named Kirkpatrick Macmillan.  Prior to that, you had to push yourself along using your feet.

9.  The bicycle is the most efficient vehicle ever devised; a human on a bicycle is more efficient (in calories spent per pound and per mile) than a train, truck, airplane, boat, car, motorcycle or jet pack.

8.  Cycling only three hours per week cuts your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%!

7.  The longest tandem bicycle seated 35 people and was 67 feet long.  Wow!

6.  The smallest bicycle ever made had two wheels made from silver dollars.

5.  The fastest speed ever recorded on a bicycle was attained by American Olympic Cyclist and Ironman triathlon competitor John Howard, when he reached 152.2 mph in 1985.

4.  There are about 1 billion bikes in the world, compared to half as many motorized vehicles.  About 100 million bikes are manufactured every year.

3.  If you wanted to, you could fit anywhere between 6 and 20 bicycles in a standard car parking space in a paved lot.

2.  Bicycles save over 238 million gallons of gas per year by replacing trips made in cars.

1.  Susan B. Anthony said about bicycling:  " has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.  It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.  I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."  Check it out!

What other interesting things can you share about bicycles?  I'd like to hear what you have to say!

Monday, April 8, 2013

April showers...and you know the rest.

I live in the Pacific Northwest.  To be a little more specific, do you remember the diagram of the water cycle that you learned in school?  There's some mountains, clouds, rain, and then a river that leads to the ocean.  You know the spot where the water hits the ground?  That's where my house is.  Hrmph.  Last weekend we had stunningly beautiful weather and I was all psyched about spring, and now the rain is back and I'm trying to think about all the May flowers it will bring.

But because I'm thinking of the rain, I'm also thinking about the water cycle!

No, not that kind of water cycle (and for the awesome Spongebob're welcome).

Um, still no (and by the way, WHY does she need a bell on the bike?  To avoid crashing into masses of other people on water bottle bikes???).  Maybe something a little more like this:

Image by Matt Coleman
Well, you get the picture.  The water cycle basically goes like this: water evaporates from various sources, condenses in the form of clouds, then precipitates to earth, where it is either absorbed by the earth and stored as groundwater, or runs off as surface water to lakes and oceans, where the cycle starts all over again.

Sounds simple, right?  Well, maybe at first glance.  But take a look at the article I wrote called "...And the Award for 'Most Intriguing Cycle' Goes to..." on the Brainy Girls Articles page.  I briefly describe the water cycle, and then talk about human impacts on the water cycle and why it matters to you.  There are some complex aspects of the water cycle, and humans are having an increasingly large effect on some of them.  Can you think of a few?  Leave me a comment and share your thoughts!

But before you go, here's a little comic I found:

So for now, I will try to look at the rain as love and joy, and picture all the May flowers that I'll be seeing next month.  I hope this month's rain brings you good things in the near future, too!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Around and Round we go!

Greetings, Brainy Girls, and happy spring!  I figured that since our seasons are in transition, what better theme for the April and May issue than cycles?  What kind of cycles, you ask?  Well, that's where things get interesting.  Today, the obvious answer is seasonal cycles.  It is beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest, a welcome change from the cold rainy winter that we've had.  Birds are visiting the back yard feeder, bulbs are blooming, and I'm even going to biCYCLE to work tomorrow!

See?  Cycles are everywhere...including cycles within cycles.  Seasons change, wildlife migrates depending on photoperiod and temperature, plants start springing into action as the days warm up, and people's behavior changes along with the weather.

What other cycles can you think of?  In this upcoming issue of Brainy Girls, we'll be exploring other types of cycles.  Do you have a favorite that you'd like us to talk about?  Feel free to let me know - one of the best things about running this website is when I get to interact with readers.  What will it be?  The rotational cycles of our solar system?  The microscopic intricacies of soil nutrient cycles?  Something in between?  You'll just have to stay on the merry-go-round and keep checking back as the month progresses!

I hope that you are having a fantastic spring!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Science is a Girl's Best Friend

Poster by Alicia Tran
I'm truly excited to share with you a brand new article for National Women's History Month, written by Amanda Wrigglesworth, a.k.a. SkeptiKhaleesi.  I first ran across Amanda's work when I saw her "Women of Science" videos on youtube, in which Amanda provides portraits of outstanding women in science that you might not know much about.  You can access all of SkeptiKhaleesi's videos on her youtube channel, but please also visit the Articles page and read Amanda's essay on the past, present and future recognition of women in science.  In her essay, Amanda discusses reasons why women have been historically overlooked in the sciences, how perceptions of women in science are changing, and what we can do to promote that change.  Whether you're a woman with a career in science or a student hoping to become a scientist, you're sure to learn something from this article.

What do you think?  What can we do today to ensure that the accomplishments of our female scientists are recognized, and even more importantly, reinforce to our younger generations that scientists have been, are, and will continue to include females?  What can we do to teach our girls that anyone, male or female, can be a scientist if she is willing to work hard to reach her goals?  I want to hear your ideas, so leave a comment below!

And don't forget to check out SkeptiKhaleesi's videos.  Here is her most recent, on Rita Levi-Montalcini.  I guarantee you'll learn something new about a very cool, brainy lady!  Thanks so much, Amanda!

Related posts:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ze Future and Jean

Hi Brainy Girls readers!  Today we're trying something a little new for the blog.  We're featuring our first guest blogger, Courtney Dowell!  I met Courtney on my way to see Miss Representation (have you seen it?  You should, if you haven't!) and was struck by the uniqueness of Courtney's personality and her interest in science.  So I asked her to write a short piece on what she's interested in and who has served as a role model for her.  This is what she had to say!

Courtney and her role model, Jean.
“Yesterday, I considered becoming a nuclear engineer. Today I want to be a chemical engineer, but last week I read an article about environmental chemical engineers and I haven’t ruled that out yet. I absolutely love physics and chemistry, and no matter where my dreams of the future go, those little fellas are there.  In the past, this hasn’t been the most female-populated field, but that’s changing.  At OSU [Oregon State University], there are photos of the chemical engineering graduating classes along every wall, and in each year’s photo, there are more blouses and more hope that we will take over the world. (Just kidding. Sort of!) 

"Someone who has enhanced and encouraged my own excitement for these subjects is my grandpa’s best friend, Jean. I adore her. She’s the reigning queen of protecting the environment (yes, I mean that as a challenge). This woman has her roof solar paneled, rides her bike everywhere, and won’t buy over-packaged products. By day, she directs bands… and everyday, she also saves the world. She inspires this fiery hope in me to save the world, too. Besides being ridiculously clever, Jean’s one of the sweetest people I know and constantly awards me magical hugs that make me feel special, too!"

Courtney is a high school senior who enjoys reading, music, math, and ice cream. Her favorite books are To Kill A Mockingbird, The Physics of Superheroes, and the entire Harry Potter series.  Thanks, Courtney, for helping us honor our role models during National Women's History Month!  

Do you have a role model you'd like to tell us about?  Leave a comment below!  Or, if you are looking for some inspiration, check out FabFems, a site which features profiles of women who are successful across a variety of fields.  Tell us who inspires you!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Just for You - Blogs by Women in STEM Fields!

Just a quick post today to share some websites I've recently stumbled upon in my research for Brainy Girls.  Are you looking for inspiration from women in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)?  Blogs are a great resource because they provide current information, and are often written by STEM women themselves.  They offer insight and advice, a glimpse into these women's lives (sometimes both personal and professional), and information about research.  Who will you be inspired by?  Here are a few websites you might want to take a look at (in addition to this blog, and the websites found on the More Please page, of course!):

USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog - Looking for a list of brainy ladies, both current and historic?  Stop by this blog, which is featuring profiles of female science and engineering role models throughout the month of March.

Science Club for Girls Blog - One of their new projects features successful STEM women who have written letters to their younger selves.  Read their advice for tips on how to survive your teens, value yourself, and choose the path that is right for you.

Female Science Professor Blog - This blog is written by a university researcher who works in the physical sciences.  Read this blog for insight about being a science professor - what the job is like, both the ups and the downs, and the puzzlements that go along with each.

There are countless blogs like the three featured above, which I have really enjoyed reading.  If you want to see for yourself, take a look at these next two websites:

Fairer Science - This isn't a blog, but you'll definitely want to stop here for a list of women in science blog resources!  There are many links on this site, with a wide range in fields and perspectives.

Women in Science - 50 Must Read Bloggers - This is a list put together by the Phlebotomy Technician Schools.  Similar to the above link, this is a fantastic list of blogs you'll want to explore!

Wow, there really are too many blogs to list here.  But if you are interested in learning about what it's like to be in a science field from a scientist herself, I encourage you to explore, starting with the links above.  Blogs are a great way to get the inside scoop, and they tend to be more in-depth than a simple facebook post or tweet.  If you find an interesting blog that you want to share, leave a comment below!  I'd love to check it out!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Quick! Name a Superhero!

And now for a little different *spin* (think Linda Carter turning into Super Woman) on National Women's History Month!

Did you ever stop to think about our American superheros?  True, there are a lot of real women who have contributed to our country's cultural, scientific, and political fabric.  But did you ever stop to think about the fictional ones, ones that may have served as role models and inspirations to young girls just as much as real people might?  I just came across a film by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan called "Wonder Women: the Untold Story of American Superheroines".  It's about the changing role of female superheros in our culture, and uses Wonder Woman as an example of someone who was initially portrayed as independent and strong, then whose image shifted to reflect the changing roles of women in our society.  When women went to work in the factories during war time, independence and strength were considered admirable traits in a woman.  But when men came home and wanted their jobs back, society told women to go home and get back to traditional interests and past-times.  Wonder Woman followed a parallel path during those times, becoming more independent again in the 1970's with the revival of the strong female and feminist movement.

But it's not just about Wonder Woman's history - it's about our history as women in this country.  Do we have strong female role models in pop culture that girls can idolize and get excited about through fantasy and imagination?  Do we have women superheroines that are more than just tight-fitting outfits who are there as eye-candy for the boys?  Do we need more of them?  What are the superhero movies and comics of today telling our girls about women? If you are a girl who reads comics and enjoys superheros, what do you want to see more of? 

The truth is, we could do better.  I'm not saying that we don't have strong, intelligent, independent kick-ass women superheros today, because they do exist.  I'm saying we need more of them!  I loved watching Lynda Carter spin around and turn into Wonder Woman in the 1970's TV show, and even though I was only five or six, I recognized a strong woman when I saw one.  I'm glad my dad let me watch that show among the others we watched - the Incredible Hulk, Spider Man, and who knows what else.  Deflecting bullets with wristbands was a skill I wanted to have, and flying an invisible jet was definitely a cool way to travel.

Take a look at the movie trailer here, and if you get a chance, watch the whole documentary.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

And it's International Women's Day, too!

Did you know that, tucked amongst the awesomeness that is National Women's History Month, is a day celebrating women around the world?  It's true - March 8 is International Women's Day, 2013!  The theme for International Women's Day is "The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum", which aims to draw attention to the progress made towards achieving equality for women around the world.  Let's acknowledge the accomplishments of our women and keep the momentum going for achieving women's equality everywhere!

Speaking of achievements, I've posted a new article for you: Marci's Top Ten Coolest Inventions by Women!  You can get to the list by clicking here or by simply visiting the Articles page.  Are you a budding inventor?  I'll bet everyone has some sort of idea that can better the world; it's just a matter of development and putting yourself out there and showing us what you've got!  And who knows - if you're persistent, you might make my next top ten list!  But you might have to think creatively because the cat duster has already been invented.  Darn!  Coming up with new ways to make cats good for something will just be that much more of a challenge.  Awww, just kidding.  I love cats.  All of them.  How'd we get onto cats?  I don't know but you should like cats too.  And also, visit the Brainy Girls facebook page and like it if you haven't already!  And tell your friends!

Alright, clearly it is time for bed.  Happy International Women's Day, and honestly, nurture your creativity.  It will be a valuable asset in your life!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy National Women's History Month!

Welcome to another issue of Brainy Girls!  This is a special one-month issue to celebrate National Women's History Month.  Throughout March, I hope that you're able to take some time and reflect on the awesome women who have inspired and influenced you in your life, those who have helped shape who you are and guided you along your path.  We'll be reflecting on some of those women, so keep checking back to see what we have in store for you!

Me and my mom being dorks at a Renaissance Faire.
When I think of the women who have inspired me, three women immediately come to mind.  First, my mom.  Awwww.  Yes, it's true - she's been my best friend and advocate my entire life.  While she's had her struggles, I keep watching her carry on and move forward regardless of the challenges that she faces.  We give each other strength and encouragement, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Second (and I've already posted about her), is cartoonist, painter, writer and teacher, Lynda Barry.  My mom introduced me to Lynda's work when I was about eight years old and I've been an uber-fan ever since!  You can read more about Lynda in my previous post, but she served as my creative role model and allowed me to believe that not everything has to be perfect and beautiful in order to be perfect and beautiful.  Know what I mean?  No?  Well, check out some of Lynda's body of art and you'll see. 

Me and Ms. Cone when I visited her in 1999.
Third on my list is my tenth and twelfth grade English teacher, Joan Cone.  I was new to my high school in tenth grade, and I'm not sure Ms. Cone really liked me at first (largely due to some shenanigans a couple of my guy friends carried out in class and blamed on me, of which I was truly innocent).  However, as we got to know each other throughout the school year (mostly through writing assignments and feedback), Ms. Cone instilled in me a confidence about my writing and ability to help others with their writing as well.  I'm not trying to be all braggy or anything, but Ms. Cone let me write in my own style and said I was a natural writer, words that have stuck in my head through all these years.  Additionally, as my twelfth grade AP English teacher, Ms. Cone guided me in my reading, assigning books that portrayed stories of women around the world.  I loved those stories, and hope some day that I will write one of them.  Or perhaps inspire someone else to write one!  Maybe you!

Who are your heroes?  What do you love and who introduced you to it?  Who helped you get where you are today?  I look forward to hearing about the influential women in your life, whether they are famous faces from the past or from your family today. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Let's leave this issue with a 3D mark!

It's almost the end of the month, which means that we will soon be switching over to a new issue of Brainy Girls.  I've really had fun with the art and literature theme, even if it was almost completely art (sorry, literature!).  What did you think?  I hope that you found something of interest, since I know that Brainy Girls are diverse people fascinated by many types of things!  And what will the next issue be about?  You'll just have to wait and see!

But wait - I have one more article for you before we leave our art and literature issue behind.  I've been hearing a lot about 3D printing lately, whether it's in art, product prototyping, or the medical field.  You're probably thinking "3D printing?  How the heck does that work???"  Well, if you head on over to the articles page, I'll show you how.  It's pretty incredible - just imagine the possibilities!

What would you print if you had a 3D printer at hand?  What would you use this tool for?  Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Darlene Schaper Interview, Part Two!

Guess who has two thumbs and figured out how to use video editing software this weekend?  This girl!!!  I finally sat down to edit the video footage that we took of Darlene during her interview, and I think it turned out pretty good, seeing as how I've never edited a single second of video before.  This video interview describes Darlene's art - her subject matter, her inspiration, and process.  Darlene discusses her use of items gathered from the Goodwill bins as a way of recycling and identifying the waste problems of our society.  You'll also get to see Nefertiti and Bigfoot!  If you missed it, you can read part one of Darlene's interview on the Work It page here at Brainy Girls - she discusses her career as an artist and gives some good advice for those wanting to pursue a career or studies in art.  I'm very happy that Darlene took the time to talk with us about her art, which has some incredible messages about the state of our world today: our waste production, the relationship between our ecological footprint and animals, and the benefits of recycling.  Thanks so much, Darlene!  Keep us posted on what you're up to in the future!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Art and Science Intersect How?

First, apologies for the lapse in posts.  I've been away on vacation, enjoying some rare sun for those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest.  But I'm back, and I've been thinking a lot about this issue's theme, art and literature.

I was thinking about how art and science are alike, and how they are different.  I've made a mental list, and almost every time I think "well, science is ___________", I almost immediately think "well, so is art".  Finding the differences between art and science is more difficult than you might think!  The biggest similarity, though, I think is captured in this picture:

...because science and art both start with wonder, a question, a need to find or provide an answer.  When you ask a question in science, you form hypotheses and ways to test them using the scientific method.  When you ask a question through art, you find answers in paintings, sculpture, songs, literature, dance...and they all follow a process of using creativity to test and choose a path towards answering the original question.

How do you ask and answer your questions?  Are you a scientist or an artist or both?  How do both science and art infiltrate your life, in ways that you might not even think about at first?  How does your brain separate logic and emotion, and how does each fuel science and art?

I know, I'm getting philosophical for a Saturday morning.  Just thinking, though, and I'm curious to read your musings in a comment below.  Yes, I'm talking to you!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Art to Make Your Head Spin!

Have you seen the 3D sidewalk art that has been going around lately?  It's really incredible - viewed from a particular angle, the drawing looks like a three-dimensional scene.  But in reality, it's flat!  If you want to know more about how these drawings work, head over to the Articles page where you can read all about it and even see a couple of drawings in action.  It will make your head spin!

Photos from
These are the same drawing, one viewed head-on and one viewed from the side.  See the difference?  Read the article to find out more!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Crave Bunnies?

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Darlene Schaper, a Portland, Oregon, artist who kindly agreed to show me around her home and studio and chat with me about her career and art.  The product?  A BRAND NEW WORK-IT INTERVIEW, just for YOU!!!  Yes, you can read all about Darlene's career as an artist and hear what advice she has to offer to anyone interested in pursuing a career in art.  But wait, THERE'S MORE!!!  We even took some video of our visit, so as soon as I figure out how to work this new-fangled video-magic film editing software, you'll get to see the first-ever Brainy Girls video interview!!!  The written part of Darlene's interview (available now) is more about her career, but the video will be more about her art and what inspires her to do what she does (coming soon to an online magazine near you).  I'm so excited!!!  Will Nefertiti the hairless Sphinx make an appearance?  Will you get to see Bigfoot?  What are the "bins" and what can you find there???  All these questions and MORE will be soon as I finish putting the video together!  But for now, please check out Work It, and feel free to bunny hop on over to Darlene's website where you can see more of her art (including the pieces featured below).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Let's Talk Fiction!

In the past, our Brainy Girls topics have been about reality - the concrete, the sure, the proven.  But given the theme of this issue of Brainy Girls (arts and literature, that is), I'm starting to think about what reality and fiction really are.  Can one influence the other?  Most certainly, I many of our greatest inventions have come from dreams, stories, fanciful thoughts put into motion.  Can you name a few?  I'll bet there are five things you can see RIGHT NOW that fall into this category!  But it's not just history I'm talking about...fiction is influencing reality *today*!  Let's think about it this way:  what's the most recent fiction book you've read?  Did it happen to change your perspective, or shift the way you think about something?  Did it inspire you to try something new in real life?

When I was a kid, I LOVED reading (and I still do).  When a movie came out, I would buy the book, read it first (if it was available), then watch the movie, then read the book, and read the book and read the book.  Do you remember that movie "The Goonies"?  I was obsessed with that movie when I was about 12 years old.  I was convinced that if I had a backpack like Data with all sorts of gadgets and inventions in it, I would be sure to go on many adventures and thwart whatever bad guys stood in my way.  I went so far as to "borrow" a yellow backpack from my brother and fill it with anything I had that could remotely serve as some sort of ingredient for invention or tool for adventure...which wasn't too much at the time.  But the rest of that backpack was filled with my imagination and possibility!

Take a look at this video and think about where your favorite fictional stories might lead you in real life!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Issue! And New Year!

Hello, 2013!  It's a brand new year and to kick it off, we're going to start a brand new issue of Brainy Girls!  Did you vote for the new theme?  The theme for January and February is going to be art and literature...but don't worry, you don't have to be a bookworm or theater geek to have fun with the new theme (although it's perfectly cool if you are).  Brainy girls have diverse interests, and I'll bet that many of you have an artistic side that complements your analytical side.  I'll be introducing you to some of my favorite artists and will write about some of them as my own heroes and role models.  In fact, to start off, I might as well tell you that LYNDA BARRY is AWESOME and I've been reading her for going on thirty years now.  And talk about art and literature...she started off cartooning (that's when I was first exposed to her), but has diverged into painting, mixed media, writing novels, and teaching writing classes.  I'm kind of a super-fan.  What I like so much about Lynda Barry's work is that she's not afraid to paint (or write) the real picture.  She tells it like it is - the good, bad and ugly.  She writes the voice of adolescent girls particularly well, and characters like Marlys, Maybonne, Arna and Arnold (erm, not a girl but still an excellent character) are my comic superheroes.  You should check out her blog!  (And you can click here to see a list of her books - please buy them from your local book store!)

I was fortunate enough to meet her at ComiCon in San Diego in 2008 - I wandered around in a shirt that said "help me find Lynda Barry" until I actually found Lynda Barry.  She was so nice to everyone she talked to (from what I saw, at least) and I was thrilled that I got to say even just a few words to her.  She'll never know the full influence she's had on my creative development, but that's my own personal journey.  Who is YOUR creative role model?

Me with my hero, Lynda Barry. Dude - that guy in the background totally photobombed my picture!!!

I'm looking forward to exploring art and literature with you over the next couple of months.  The content will slowly change from the last issue, so if there's a particular topic you'd like me to address, let me know!  Contact me through the Contact Me page!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I just want to say a quick hello to all you Brainy Girls (and Brainy Boys) out there, and thank you for all the support you've given this fledgeling website in the past few months.  It has been a busy past few weeks, but I'm hoping to launch the January/February issue soon after the New Year.  Make sure you vote for what you want to read about on the "Interactive" page! 

Regardless of what holiday you do (or don't) celebrate at this time of year, I hope that you all take some time to appreciate YOU!

marci  :o)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Three Down, Two to Go!

We've covered three of the five senses:  smell (perfume science), hearing (interview with conductor Dijana Ihas), and taste (entomophagy), which leaves only touch and sight left!  I have some ideas for you, but let me know NOW if there's anything in particular you want to know about with regards to touch and sight!

The holidays are approaching and I will try to get these articles done, but I'll have to keep my fingers crossed.  Even Brainy Girls need to do holiday shopping!

And since we've been posting so much about insects on Facebook lately, here's a fun image for you.  The photographer's wife noticed that the sugar ants have transparent abdomens that turn the color of the fluid that they drink!  You can see more of this photographer's work with colored ants here.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Katydids and Conductors

Photo Credit: Dr. Montealegre-Z
and Professor Daniel Robert
Let's continue our exploration of the five senses.  What do crickets and conductors have in common?  Why, the orchestra, of course!  Someone has to direct all that chirping, no?  Well, maybe not, but sometimes it seems like the noises of nature combine to make quite a symphony.  And who's listening?  You can certainly say that South American bush crickets, or katydids, are listening, and listening well.  A recent study has found that these katydids, whose ears are on their legs, have a hearing system very similar to mammals but are incredibly sensitive and can detect noises from great distances.  Perhaps this study will help unlock some of the secrets to supersonic hearing for humans!

Yes, that's right, I'm talking about our sense of hearing.  However, I thought we could take a break from all the technical jargon for a bit and simply enjoy our sense of hearing.  And what's better to listen to than music?  I'm psyched to present our latest interview, this month featuring Dr. Dijana Ihas of Pacific University in Oregon.  I met her after she conducted a high school honor band concert and she very kindly allowed me to ask her some questions about her career as a professional musician and music teacher.  So, if you play or are learning a musical instrument, or know a music teacher, read and share this interview.  The interview is located on the "Work It" page, here; please enjoy and let me know what you think!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and that the holiday was a feast for all five of your senses!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who is an Engineer?

One of the things that Brainy Girls tries to do is defy stereotypes.  What do you think a female engineer acts like?  Looks like?  Take a look at Laura and remember - YOU can be anything you want to be...defy the stereotype!  The only person who defines who you are is YOU.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I'm *Sensing* Some Changes Around Here!

Welcome to the November - December issue of Brainy Girls!  Over the next week or so you'll notice that the content will change - the old stuff will disappear and new stuff will take its place.  Did you miss out on any of the September - October issue?  If you'd like, you can request a pdf of the entire thing and I'll email it to you - just send me a note through the Feedback page (unfortunately, it looks like I can't post files directly to this website).  It's no trouble at all!

You may have noticed that I'm referring to Brainy Girls content as "issues".  This is because I very much consider this website to be an online magazine, with the same type of content that you'd find in a print publication.  We've got articles, we've got interviews, we've got other fun little tidbits!  The only difference is that you don't have to pay for it, and there are no advertisements.  So if you like this online magazine, pass it around to your friends!

You may also have noticed that a few things have changed in this latest issue.  First, there's an "interactive" page where I hope to post things for you to engage with.  Please let me know how you like it - right now, there's a poll for what you'd like to see in future Brainy Girls issues.  Second, I've moved the links and good reads sections to one page, "more, please".  There, you'll find links, books, DVDs, and other things I think you might find interesting.  Next, I now have a "videos" page, where I'll post videos relevant to the current issue's theme.  We also have our own YouTube channel!  You can subscribe to that and see what videos we like.  Additionally, current news will now be featured through Facebook, since it's so easy to find and share there.  So if you haven't "liked" our Facebook page, please do so!  And that leads me to my final point - social media.  It turns out I'm kind of a social media geek, and have gone a little overboard on the social media scene.  But that's ok, it just gives you that many more options to connect with Brainy Girls!  You can find us on Facebook, Google+, Blogger (the "join this site" button on the left side of this page), YouTube and even Pinterest!  Yahoo!  (Well, not, but yahoo, as in yippee!!!)

I'd like to take a moment to reiterate the purpose of Brainy Girls.  There are two main messages that I want to impress upon you:  1) most importantly, be proud of who you are, whoever you are; and 2) be smart!  No matter what "type" of girl you are, you can use your brain.  You don't have to choose between being smart or popular or geeky or pretty - you can be ALL of these things, some of these things, or something else entirely.  It's up to you!  Brainy Girls is here to encourage you to enjoy using your brain!

One last thing...the theme for November and December!  I received a note from a girl named Wallis who was hoping to learn more about the science behind cosmetics and perfume.  I started thinking about fragrance, and then thought about how much we enjoy smelling (crisp winter air, pumpkin pie), tasting (turkey and stuffing, please!), feeling (warm air from the fireplace), hearing (caroling, anyone?) and seeing (brilliant changing leaf colors) the world around us at this time of year.  You see where I'm going with this?  Yes, our new theme is our senses - and I'll take a look at some of the ways they help us navigate our world, for survival, need, and enjoyment.  I hope you enjoy the next couple of months!