Monday, September 24, 2012

An Unexpected History Lesson About Brainy Ladies

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I've lived in the Portland area for over three years now and I just visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (fondly known as OMSI) for the first time.  And I have to say that it's a pretty awesome place if you want to get your hands on real fact, they actually want you to play with stuff!  I didn't see one "do not touch" sign, or see any parents yelling at their kids to not play with something that just looked too irresistible not to touch. 

While I enjoyed the earth science exhibit immensely (I got to be a weather forecaster in front of a green screen!!!), the biggest surprise for me came when we went to the physics lab.  In front of the physics lab they had a large bulletin board with all sorts of newspaper clippings about physics in the news.  And guess what - about a quarter of them were all about women who excelled in the field of physics and mathematics.  I took a little time to read about some of them.
Emmy Noether (SPL/Photo Researchers)

A New York Times article (March 26, 2012) titled The Mighty Mathematician You've Never Heard Of, described Amalie Noether, the woman who Einstein called the most significant and creative female mathematician of all time. She invented a theorem that united "two pillars of physics: symmetry in nature and the universal laws of conservation. Some consider Noether’s theorem, as it is now called, as important as Einstein’s theory of relativity; it undergirds much of today’s vanguard research in physics, including the hunt for the almighty Higgs boson." Wowzers!  In light of that, it seems logical that many of her contemporaries viewed her as the most significant and creative mathematician - period - regardless of her gender.

Dr. Spiewak Dresselhaus, by
Evan McGlinn for The New York Times
And there were other women featured in more articles, too.  For example, Margaret Murnane, a University of Colorado at Boulder Professor, recently won Ireland's top science award for her work with lasers and x-ray technology.  And Dr. Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus, a professor of physics and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won the 2012 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience for her work studying the properties of carbon. 

What amazing women we have to serve as role models.  Once you start looking, it seems that they are everywhere!  I suggest you stop by your nearest science museum, and no matter how old (or young) you are, play.  Use your hands and your brain - what will you learn?  What will you envision yourself doing?  Who knows...perhaps some day you'll be playing with stars!

Me, geeking out at OMSI.  Maybe YOU will be an astronaut some day!

1 comment:

  1. Love this article! Will you drag me to the museum when I'm up there in November?!


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