What advice do you have for younger girls (high school aged) looking to have careers in scientific fields like theoretical physics and astrophysics in their futures? Thanks!
Firstly: Doooo it! Do it do it do it and don’t let anyone stop you.
Secondly: Take as many physics classes as are available to you. And Chemistry and Biology too because cross-disciplinary study is a vast and interesting field right now. This advice goes for all genders, btw. You want to find out if this is something you are truly interested in studying full-time. High school physics and college physics are handled differently, but learning the material can give you an idea of whether or not you want to do a degree in the sciences or be an enthusiast in your free time. Both are cool.
Thirdly: And this is the advice specifically for girls*. You might come up against some adversity. I cannot fathom why but there are certain people out there who think girls are not suited to science. For reasons best known only to themselves. They are wrong.
Some people are not suited to studying science. They might not have the required mix of curiosity/creativity/logical thinking that all good scientists have. But the people who are not suited and the genitals they have are in no way correlated. The only constraint comes from society. Now there is a huge amount of history and (un)reasoning surrounding why society seems to discourage women from entering STEM (and most especially Physics) careers that we could literally devote an entire sister blog to just discussing and debunking these issues. But for now lets just say that anything anyone could say to you is either not true or not necessarily applicable to you. You know yourself best. So don’t let the nay-sayers bring you down.
Fourth and finally: Back to general advice; something that every person I have ever known who is studying anything in the sciences, my whole Physics class, my whole Theoretical Physics class, all my Post grad colleagues, has been asked is “Oh! And what are you going to do with that?” usually followed by the prompt “Teach?”. I recently advise someone that the correct answer to such a stupid question is “Whatever I want to.”
Take it one step at a time.
That is my overarching advice. For now you should take some classes and read pop science books like Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman, etc. Next you get into college and major in whatever science strikes your fancy most *cough* Physics *cough*. Then you see about postgraduate opportunities then jobs then careers.
And don’t sweat it. You might find yourself at some point, for whatever reason, not doing science. But whatever you are doing, you can bring that natural spark and whatever level of scientific education you have to it and enhance what you are doing. Ask Alfred Hitchcock, Bill Nye, Lisa Kudrow, Mayim Bialik, Rowan Atkinson, Cindy Crawford, Natalie Portman, etc, etc, and so forth.
I hope this is helpful and I am sorry that it does not have any pictures.
*or, you know, other genders that are facing adversity when it comes to their dream of studying or having a career in science. The fuck do I know about your life?
…If the question is whether I think that there is a person who has created Heavens and Earth, and responds to our prayers, then definitely my answer is no, with much certainty.
If the question is whether I believe that “God” is a powerful something in the people, which causes a lot of disasters but also a lot of good, then of course I believe it. In fact, I am extremely curious about religion. I think that we should study what is religion much more than what is done. There is a sort of taboo in this, a sort of respect towards people who “believe in God”, which makes it difficult to understand better.
I think that viewing the “belief in God” just as a bunch of silly superstitions is wrong. The “belief in God” is one form of human religious attitude, and human religious attitude is something very general and universal about our functioning. Something which is important for man, and we have not yet understood.
…you can be great in solving Maxwell’s equations and pray to God in the evening. But there is an unavoidable clash between science and certain religions, especially some forms of Christianity and Islam, those that pretend to be repositories of “absolute Truths.” The problem is not that scientists think they know everything. It is the opposite: scientists know that there are things we simply do not know, and naturally question those who pretend to know. Many religious people are disturbed by this, and have difficulty in coping with it. The religious person says, “I know that God has created light saying, ‘Fiat Lux.’” The scientist does not believe the story. The religious people feel threatened. And here the clash develops. But not all religions are like that. Many forms of Buddhism, for instance, have no difficulty with the continual critical attitude of science. …
“…Einstein, Heisenberg, Newton, Bohr… and many … of the greatest scientists of all times … read philosophy, learned from philosophy, and could have never done the great science they did without the input they got from philosophy, as they claimed repeatedly. You see: the scientists that talk philosophy down are simply superficial: they have a philosophy (usually some ill-digested mixture of Popper and Kuhn) and think that this is the “true” philosophy, and do not realize that this has limitations.”—
By John Horgan of Scientific American August 21, 2014
A beautiful interview, in many ways. Although I understand why it happens to an extent, it’s still baffling to see such an agitated response against philosophy, from some students of science.
Science stemmed from philosophy, from the human desire to understand the world around us. And it is a cycle: science does not only produce technologies, but philosophies as well. When we gain a new understanding of our universe, we also learn how to better respond to nature — how to live better. Philosophy in action.
What is the “mystery of the universe”? There isn’t a “mystery of the universe.” There is an ocean of things we do not know. Many of them we’ll figure out, if we continue to be somewhat rational and do not kill one another first (which is well possible.) There will always be plenty of things that we will not understand, I think, but what do I know? In any case, we are very very very far from any complete comprehension of everything we would like to know.
I have no idea what “absolute truth” means. I think that science is the attitude of those who find funny the people saying they know something is absolute truth. Science is the awareness that our knowledge is constantly uncertain. What I know is that there are plenty of things that science does not understand yet. And science is the best tool found so far for reaching reasonably reliable knowledge.
“I found physics, where … revolutions succeed. I got in love with it. It has been a passion that hasn’t ended. … [Physics] has been much better than I expected. Infinite fun and enthusiasm. Investigating the secrets of the world. Thinking things that nobody else has thought before. Great adventures in thinking. Great companions of travel. Fantastic.”—
“In a feverish dream, you hatch a theory that to make the largest chewing gum bubble imaginable, you need to blow it up so that the radius is increasing at a constant rate of 6 millimeters per second.
Fred the spherical cow is happily grazing on cubical grass pellets. He grows in volume at a rate of 6 cubic feet per day.”—
A More Pseudonymous Internet - From ephemeral publishing apps to the abandoned Google “real names” policy, a push to revive relative namelessness online.
Excellent article. Some excerpts:
…they search for safe spaces where they can … anonymously practice new ways of thinking and being. These interactions offer them freedom and distance from their existing relationships. They eventually use the experiences, relationships, and practices cultivated through their Elastic Self in other areas of their life.
I was finding myself on the Internet … learning skills that would be useful both as a professional and a human offline. My ability to be an effective creator was hugely shaped by writing popular fan fiction and running side-project businesses in virtual worlds. Researchers have also found pseudonymous games to be great environments for training leadership skills.
The above is hilarious to me right now. Just the other day I was talking to someone about Neopets. Yeah, Neopets. It’s a ridiculous thing to try to explain: a website built around fantasy creatures helped me learn valuable skills like marketing and business-management, and even helped build an international network of friends and business prospects (some of whom I’ve encountered recently, over a decade later, in person and on other sites).
“companies and institutions often misinterpret the meaning of people’s social lives, codifying it in a way that forces people into static relationships that don’t reflect the fluid nature of actual relationships.”
Commentators began suggesting real-name usage would make the Internet a clean and civil place. (These theories are contradicted by evidence.) Unsurprisingly, some people who have advocated for real-name usage are affiliated with data-gathering social platforms.
Can pseudonyms and anonymity be used to hurt others? Obviously, yes. As a woman on the Internet, I’ve encountered my share of nastiness.
There’s nothing about this article that gives the writer away as a woman, until she mentions it. Once it’s out there, certain people will judge what you say by your gender, and it’s neither fun nor interesting. Although I use my name here on tumblr, there are other sites on which I still use pseudonyms. I’ve been called “man”, “dude”, “12-year-old boy”, “sir”, and “neckbeard”, among other terms usually reserved for humans with a set of testicles, and know of other women who’ve had the same experience. People still think there are few women in discussions of gaming and STEM, but I wonder how many of us are simply hidden, just because we don’t want to deal with the BS?
Anyway, I agree with the author: anonymity and pseudonymity are an important kind of freedom, worth fighting for going forward.
“Clothes are people’s extended skin, wheels extended feet, camera and telescope extended eyes. Our technological creations are extrapolations of the bodies that our genes build. In this way, we can think of technology as our extended body. If technology is an extension of humans, it is not an extension of our genes but our minds.
“Symbolic representation of the Universe as a self-excited system brought into being by ‘self-reference’. The universe gives birth to communicating participators. Communicating participators give meaning to the universe…With such a concept goes the endless series of receding reflections one sees in a pair of facing mirrors.”—
John Archibald Wheeler (July 9, 1911 – April 13, 2008) was an American theoretical physicist who was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr in explaining the basic principles behind nuclear fission. … He is also known for … for coining the term “quantum foam"…
Metaphorically, for me, the “nakedness” of mental transparency is identical to physical nudity. The complex data of our yearning craniums won’t be shrouded any longer, won’t be buried and disguised under fabricated obstacles and artifice.
But, naked isn’t free.
Can I climb mountains, naked? Can I travel to outer space, naked? Can I “be myself”, naked? Definitely not, definitely not, and no, I don’t think so.
Whatever appendages we choose to attach to ourselves daily or permanently, whatever artifice we handle and live with and use and surround ourselves with… it’s our costume, our armor, our shelter, our extremities, our transformation into what we are and everything we’re capable of being, would like to be, or are becoming.
I want to be buried, disguised, fabricated, obfuscated, clarified, extended through artifice.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”—
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons createphyd within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
“‘If you put three pigeons in two pigeonholes, at least two of the pigeons end up in the same hole.’ … [However, the team] found instances when three quantum particles [were] put in two boxes, ‘yet no two particles [shared] the same box.’ … In conclusion, … the authors [have] ‘presented a new quantum effect that requires us to revisit some of the most basic notions of quantum physics—the notions of separability, of correlations and of interactions.’”
"You ask me if an ordinary person could ever get to be able to imagine these things like I imagine them. Of course! I was an ordinary person who studied hard. There are no miracle people. It happens they get interested in this thing and they learn all this stuff, but they’re just people. There’s no talent, no special ability to understand quantum mechanics, or to imagine electromagnetic fields, that comes without practice and reading and learning and study. I was not born understanding quantum mechanics — I still don’t understand quantum mechanics! I was born not knowing things were made out of atoms, and not being able to visualize, therefore, when I saw the bottle of milk that I was sucking, that it was a dynamic bunch of balls bouncing around. I had to learn that just like anybody else. So if you take an ordinary person who is willing to devote a great deal of time and work and thinking and mathematics, then he’s become a scientist!”
“Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”—Bertrand Russell
Russell’s teapot, sometimes called the celestial teapot or cosmic teapot, is an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, specifically in the case of religion.
Russell wrote that if he claims that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it is nonsensical for him to expect others to believe him on the grounds that they cannot prove him wrong. Russell’s teapot is still referred to in discussions concerning the existence of God.