Ada Lovelace (via IBNLive)
Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an opportunity to celebrate pioneering women in science, technology, engineering, and math. Who is Ada Lovelace, you ask? Well, just the person who wrote the first computer program, way back in the 1800s, before many women even had the right to vote. The awful thing is — not much progress has been made since then in supporting women in STEM fields.
That’s why Ada Lovelace day exists. Say the founders of the holiday:
It’s difficult to name the women excelling in STEM because they are all but invisible…Despite evidence that girls do well in such subjects at school, few go on to study them at university and even fewer then get jobs in these fields.
But female STEM superstars do exist. To celebrate them, two female scientists, Maia Weinstock and Anne Fausto-Sterling, are organizing a Wikipedia edit-a-thon today to help correct the imbalance between the number of male scientists and number of female scientists covered on Wikipedia. Join in if you have time!
And, of course, we have a few of our own superstars to celebrate today. Below, 7 talks from women who are expanding our scientific horizons:
When Larissa Oliveira arrived in Peru to study a new species of fur seal, she discovered that it was already threatened by the loss of its primary food source due to overfishing and the effects of climate change. She shares her story of taking action to convince governments and communities that the the little-known anchovita fish — and the creatures who depend on it — are worth saving. (Spanish, with English subtitles).
Flowers are astoundingly manipulative, and need to be if they are to defend themselves against predators, find food and reproduce. Heather Whitney sheds light on the invisible tactics flowers use to exploit their pollinators.
Rosalind Franklin (photo via Ladies Love Science)
Today marks the birthday of Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering scientist who contributed significantly to our understanding of the complex cellular instructions known as DNA by photographing DNA strands as early as 1952.
Now, years after Franklin’s infamous Photo 51, scientists across the globe are using DNA to do almost unbelievable things — like creating tailor-made microbes and working to resurrect mammoths.
Below, in honor of Franklin, 5 talks on the wonder of deoxyribonucleic acid.
Sex, evolution, and innovation: Frances Arnold at TEDxUSC
We all know that organisms combine genes to create offspring. But what if we could harness those self-replicating processes and make them work for us, asks scientist Frances Arnold. At TEDxUSC, Arnold takes us through a world of possibilities, from testing drugs on microbes to aiding cancer drugs with engineered cells.
What does your genome reveal about you?: Gilean McVean at TEDxWarwick
The first sequenced human genome took years of work and billions of dollars to complete. Today, a person’s genome can be sequenced overnight for a just few thousand dollars. At TEDxWarwick, geneticist Gilean McVean examines the consequences of this technological advance and what it means for our understanding of disease.
How to bring a mammoth back to life: Beth Shapiro at TEDxDeExtinction
Bringing ancient mammoths back to life is assuredly a daunting task, but a major roadblock has been the lack of a complete mammoth genetic sequence due to deterioration over time. Scientist Beth Shaprio reveals the novel approaches that she and her colleagues are taking to revive ancient mammoths.
Creating algae factories for sustainable fuel: Michiel Mathijs at TEDxGhent
In this short and sweet talk from TEDxGhent, Michiel Mathijs elaborates on his plan to take species of algae, one of the most common life forms on the planet, and biologically engineer them to produce oil for fuel. Along the way, Mathijs addresses concerns over bioengineering, describing scientists as not composers, but the “DJs of life,” mixing and matching genetic material.
Genetically evolved technology: Luke Bawazer at TEDxWarwick
Inspired by evolution in the natural world, Luke Bawazer’s work incorporates a type of “synthetic DNA” to test and improve materials like computer chips. According to Bawazer, this type of man-made evolution might one day lead to products that naturally adapt to suit the needs of consumers.