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!