Federal funding for basic scientific research is essential for all kinds of reasons, and its benefits extend far beyond scientists themselves.
Research and discovery are pretty good on their own, but funding supports more than just research. The science and technology work that goes on in grad schools and labs across the country helps to create jobs. Without the NSF, there would be no Google (responsible for 24,000 jobs). Without DARPA, there would be no Internet (responsible for countless jobs). These jobs are no slouches, either, with the average high-tech worker in Silicon Valley earni
Over hundreds of years, scientists have adopted many different strategies to communicate science to the public. Rigorous scientific papers, letters to the editor, web sites and blogs all have taken part in converying the role and import of science. Even television plays an important role---nothing else could have drawn my 8-year-old self to mathematics like PBS's Square One.
We need and use all these channels to communicate research, discovery, and scientific milestones. No single message can reach all audiences. Some people are drawn in by big and powerful stories, others are touched by th
As a devoted fan of computers, computer science, robots, and basically everything about technology, I pretty much believe science can do anything. We may not have flying cars or television beamed right into your head---yet---but technology and innovation can eventually, somehow, solve everything.
Technology failed Japan this week, however. Its state-of-the art technology and infrastructure, though undoubtedly life-saving, wasn’t enough to prevent the death toll from climbing to an expected 10,000 people.
Japan has some of the most sophisticated earthquake and tsunami warning systems---
Boy, that Watson was something else, wasn’t he?
I myself watch Jeopardy! regularly and even DVR it, so I’m sure you can understand my geeky salivating excitement at the computing experiment. Even if you don’t usually watch Jeopardy!, I hope you had a chance to check out the anthropomorphized supercomputer plowing his way through Alex Trebek’s answers and questions.
Reaction to Watson's win has been tinged with a bit of snickering and scoffing. That stupid computer thought Toronto was a U.S. city! His computer-quick reaction time gave him an unfair advantage! And so what if
As a computer scientist, the list of historical women I admire is fairly short and predictable: pioneer Grace Hopper is at the top, followed by Turing-award winner Frances Allen and “enchantress of numbers” Ada Lovelace. Inspiration sometimes comes from unusual places, however, and I would never have guessed that a female scientist and inventor was also a 1940s Hollywood glamour girl. Really.
Hedy Lamarr, known primarily for being beautiful and seductive, was also a co-inventor of spread-spectrum broadcasting, a technology that laid the groundwork for secure broadcast communications and
When did you first become interested in computers and technology? For me, it didn’t really click until college. In high school, we didn’t have computer science, but I loved calculus and physics, and I was even on the math team. Still, I relegated math and science to just another subject. Math and science weren’t so special.
That’s why I love Expanding Your Horizons, a program that encourages interest in math and science careers among middle-school-aged young women. They bring in women scientists to give talks and lead workshops, lending a real-world spark to the seemingly abstract w
We all know we need to network. Networking events create opportunities, and they help us establish connections with other professionals whose help we might call upon someday. Conferences, group networking, and even company events fall in this category. But they can be hard for the socially awkward, those of us who struggle in social situations and would rather be at home anyway.
Among us techie types, I find that the socially inept comes in two flavors: those who withdraw from the crowd and conversation completely, and those who turn into total spazzes. I myself fall into the second categor
When I was a software engineer, working with other software engineers, there was an implicit, shared understanding about technology and tools. We had to be persuaded to use some of it, sure (even the most techie among us can be resistant to change), but in general we knew what technology was new and why we would want to use it.
Now, I work at a nonprofit. It’s a technology nonprofit, so there are plenty of folks just as comfortable as anyone with whatever tools comes our way. But there is no common background among all of us, no shared understanding. There’s a gap, in other words, betwe
Suppose there was a committee on football in the House of Representatives. If I were a congresswoman, trust me, you would not want me chairing that committee. We all want to do well in our work, of course, so I’d give it the ol’ college try. But no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about football.
Baseball committee? Sign me up. But football? No way. Put someone else in charge, someone who cares about it. It’s only logical.
The November elections, though, have done the equivalent of putting me in charge of football.
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) is the new c
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person holds eleven jobs in her lifetime. I’m on my third just since grad school; if you add in the ones after high school (a series of receptionist gigs I sucked at) and during college (more of the same, with a sysadmin graveyard shift in the mix), I’m probably over the 11 mark already. It’s given me plenty of experience not just in doing my jobs, but in starting them as well. Below are tips I’ve learned from my experiences and from others’ that I hope can help you too:
Come prepared. You want to hit the ground running, s
When thinking about the latest gadgets, you consider, among other things, whether the cool features are worth the price, right? But some of those features make it so convenient to keep spending money that it drives the price up beyond what you might have considered.
We’re not really gadget heads in my house. Usually not worth the money to have the latest thing, we figure. Still, my husband recently acquired an iPad, and I was an early Kindle adopter back in 2008.
Admittedly, I bought my kindle out of wrath one day, when my 45-minute train commute was delayed by over two hours. I was gr
If you’ve been in science and technology for a while, you know how our conferences look. In my experience, conferences are done by rote: Panels, poster sessions, paper presentations, small-group breakouts. Awkward lunchtime conversations with near-strangers, relaxed happy-hour conversations with your new best friends, and coffee that runs out the next morning when you still need it. But what truly distinguishes scientific conferences---to me, anyway---is the sharp demonstration that we really do work in a male-dominated field.
Academic or industry, tech or science, every old plenary sess
I'm a big fan of any public sharing or education of science. Science is great, right? Right! I love when we can, as a field, encourage others to appreciate what scientists do and engage in meaningful discussion.
There are public science festivals all over the country, but the longest-running annual event is in my neighborhood: Bay Area Wonderfest. Founder Tucker Hiatt was inspired by the great science popularizer Carl Sagan, and Sagan is featured prominently in the literature and throughout the website, including my favorite quote of his: "I hold that the popularization of science is succe
When you hear about voting technology and electronic ballots, it’s almost never without a mention of the election snafu of 2000. Remember that doozy? Remember pregnant chads, butterfly ballots, and election workers squinting at punch cards in what must have been the most boring job ever? If anything could have spurred us to adopt full-on nationwide electronic balloting, that was it. And yet, ten years later, even here in high-tech San Francisco, we vote (at least at my polling place) by connecting arrows with a magic marker.
Electronic voting is actually a broad term, encompassing voting