Monthly Archives: August 2012

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How We Perceive Color and the World

This was an interesting video, especially because I am a scientist. I’m not sure that I agree that neuroscience says that our only understanding of the world is what we perceive, but I do think it is something we must take into account. Great science has come from thinking beyond what we perceive with our senses. I think of light, and then I think of how we discovered there was a whole spectrum of electromagnetic waves beyond what we can see or feel. Discoveries such as this took thinking far beyond what we perceive. Maybe we will reach a wall where there is a phenomenon in the way the universe works that is beyond the capabilities of human understanding, but I like to think we will find ways to relate to phenomena far beyond our senses and observations using metaphors to what we know so that we can understand it better. What are your thoughts on this?

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Ferrofluids are always fascinating!

Ferrofluid: How it works (by Michael Flynn)

Google Takes Scientific Approach to Finding Women

Between 2000 and 2011 the number of female tech employees at Google dropped by 8%, but male employees increased by 16%. To solve the mystery of women and how confusing their work habits are, Google has developed an algorithm to help. The company discovered that women do not promote themselves as much as men during phone interviews, and women are more likely to leave after having children.

To mitigate the women leaving after having children, Google increased maternity leave to 5 months! Now, don’t get me wrong, I would be totally stoked to have that much time off after having a baby, but I think it is a problem that men only get 7 weeks of paternity leave. I do appreciate that Google is trying to keep women in the field, but if we want to move forward as a society with women, we need to make the assumption that dads may want to be the stay at home caregiver as well. Things might change for the better if we let a father or a mother take a lengthy leave for a new baby. That’s just my opinion though.

Stereotypes and Their Lingering Effects

The Lingering Stereotype

Something that minorities and women must deal with is the stereotype effect. When you get passed over after raising your hand, get ignored when you say something, get a funny look, you wonder, “Is it because I am …”

Sadly, sometimes this is true. However, we as a society are becoming less racist and sexist, so every interaction does not end with it was sexist. But the scars of just one sexist or racist incident can still linger and burn in the minds of those who were victims of it. Stereotypes linger.

Studies of Responses to Stereotypes

A recent piece from NPR investigates the effect of stereotypes on women.

One example of how negative stereotypes affect students was shown in an experiment done by Claude Steel. Women who were reminded that men outperform women on a math test ended up measurably lower scores. Thus, if we live in a culture where women are perceived to be worse at math, this could have an effect on women’s performance on math tests.

Another study was done by Toni Schmader and Matthias Mehl, in which recording devices were attached to women in science fields. The findings were that women were less engaged in conversations about their field with male colleagues than they were with female colleagues. The conclusion from this study was that its possible when women talk to men about research in their field, the stereotype is activated in the woman’s mind. Energy is wasted concerning whether or not the colleague may hold the stereotype, or even making sure she is not acting like the a stereotype of women in science.

Improving Education

It is possible that giving students a confidence boost will help with performance. One study showed that having women do a writing exercise before taking a test helped to improve their performance. Scientists think that this test helped to raise confidence and take the students’ minds off of stereotypes.

These findings are important for raising awareness around this issue. It may also be important to recognize the preexisting stereotypes in the classroom to help women become more engaged with their classmates and perform better overall.

Energy Harvesting from Viruses

This impressive research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that viruses can be used to convert mechanical energy into electricity. They have created a piezoelectric device using viruses in a thin film. The development could have a positive impact on nanotechnology, and certainly shows a bright future for piezoelectric technology.

Read more here.

Video from the lab shown below.

Video

Interesting new Maser

Read about the new Maser in Scientific American here.

The new maser, not to be confused with a laser, or the millimeter wave heat ray gun, is the first of its kind. I am curious to see the future of masers. As was mentioned in the article, the old and less powerful versions were used to boost radio communications. With these more powerful versions, just imagine how far we can send signals. I can also see applications for this in other science fields, such as atmospheric science. The maser could allow for smaller volumes of atomsphere to be studied with higher power than traditional antennas.

But really, the point here is, it is just cool. It’s a superbeam of microwaves!