My Photo


  • Jen-Luc Piquant sez: "They like us! They really like us!"

    "Explains physics to the layperson and specialist alike with abundant historical and cultural references."
    -- Exploratorium ("10 Cool Sites")

    "... polished and humorous..."
    -- Physics World

    "Takes 1 part pop culture, 1 part science, and mixes vigorously with a shakerful of passion."
    -- Typepad (Featured Blog)

    "In this elegantly written blog, stories about science and technology come to life as effortlessly as everyday chatter about politics, celebrities, and vacations."
    -- Fast Company ("The Top 10 Websites You've Never Heard Of")
Blog powered by Typepad
Bookmark and Share

« standing stones in the (inland) sea | Main | the origins »


Welcome back. We all know you've been doing important things.

I enjoyed reading about Shirley Jackson. I knew her at Bell Labs, but never talked with her about her background (it was easier not to go to that meta-level).

By the way, the NRC that she headed was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, not the National Research Council.

Millie Dresselhaus also belongs in your pantheon of pioneers, of course.

Shirley Jackson is president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

Bob beat me to the point about what RPI actually stands for, so I'll just mention that it's actually right next to Watervliet. Rensselaer is right next to Albany, but RPI isn't located in Rensselaer, which I've always thought was funny.

My hat is off to Shirley Jackson, thanks for the bio. If I may presume, let me give a plug to one of my favorite women in mathematics, and in some ways I feel a true inheritor of Ada Lovelace's program: Emmy Noether.

Your article quite correctly points out that there are very few black women on the physics scene in the US.

I am a Canadian who has attended many meetings of the APS and Biohysical Society in your country.

My observation, based solely on attending these meetings in the US, is that there are also very few male black physicists in your country.

Perhaps tradition is partly to blame for the evident disparities one sees in the numbers. Some races, such as the Hebrews, have a traditional attraction to physics. Aren't we making a mountain out of a molehill?

Peter Martel

Wow. Thanks for writing this post. Shirley Jackson sounds like an amazing woman!!!I loved reading her story!

Besides Ada Lovelace day, there was also the Women in STEM edition of the Diversity in Science Carnival over at Zuska's: This would've made a fantastic addition!

You have been missed. An uplifting post to return with, to which I add only two quanta of trivia. Ada Lovelace was immortalized in the name of the DoD high level computer language; do I recognise a 'hat tip' to our sister Virginia Woolf, though she might have felt the need for a lab of 'one's own' and recognized that money (and a privileged upper middle class background)were really rather important too?

In my Rockland County, there is a great serene woman, now 94, who was sent north by her family in the early 30's for a better education- Margaret Morgan Lawrence. At Cornell, she had to work as a maid because noone would rent her a room. At the Columbia Presbyterian medical school, where she was the second black woman, she was given a pediatric internship, but the nurses, in whose hall she had to live, would not give her a rom, and she went perforce to Harlem Hospital.She was a pioneer in community psychiatry. as well as pur family therapy therapist.In her 60's, she went to the local psychiatric haspital for a consultation and was sent to the back door because it was assume she was a laundress.
Her daughter, the beautiful Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot, has 2 name chairs, one at Harvard and one at Swarthmore, and has been a MacArthur Fellow. She wrote a book about her mother- Balm in Gilead- which is well worth reading.
We have come a long way, but we have such a long way to go.Sarah's brother,Charles, a professor of Law at Georgetown, now at Hawaii, is a son of privilege, psychiatrist mother, father chair of the sociology dept at Brooklyn College, grown up in a liberal and well off susburban enclave, with private schools- still found it necessary to write a book called "We Wont Go Back"


Lovely Ada Lovelace Day post. Working as an executive in Japan for many years I learned not to be easily offended.

I thought my subject for ALD09 was very appropriate to your site. She is the daughter of famous physicist Freeman Dyson but she is also a star in her own right.

There is a *working* Babbage engine at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA:
whose website has more to say about Ada:

Only 2 of these things exist in the world, and we'll have this one at the Museum for a while yet (thin ~through 2009), then it goes to its owner Nathan Myrhvold (ex Microsoft CTO) who has kindly lent it to us for a while. Check the schedule:

but usually @ 2PM every day the Museum is open to the public, there's a lecture on this, and then someone cranks the machine, which is truly a sight to behold in operation.

In some sense, this was the first major computer project in which after spending much effort and money, the product was never shipped.

Shirley Jackson is the bomb!!! She was president of AAAS during most of my PhD tenure and I have great respect for her. Kudos for the mention on the blog!!

Good luck with all the endeavors :)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.