Monday, June 1, 2015

The Struggle for Women in STEM

In my research of my junior theme topic on women in science, I came across some startling numbers. In 2012, the percentage of women that indicated an interest in majoring in science and engineering fields in college was 33.5%, while the percentage of men who indicated the same interest was 45.8% (National Science Foundation). These seemed like perfect statistics to begin my paper - why was the science career gap between genders so wide three years ago, and can we still see it today? For the answer to my first question, I turned to the media - specifically, commercials.

In my experience in being constantly bombarded with advertisements for all sorts of items on TV, I have found that it's not uncommon for ads to be geared towards a specific gender. For example, Barbie doll ads are usually geared towards young girls, who are shown playing with the dolls, while some other toy like superhero-themed Legos are geared more towards young boys. Many companies fall prey to these gendered ads, and in the 1970s, Apple was no different. The first home computer was released by Apple in 1977, and the commercials advertising the product were wildly gendered. I watched a couple of them, one that aired in 1985, and took notes on it. The young male character named "Brian" (who, we find out, wants to be an astronaut) goes to school and uses an Apple computer while the narrator says: “Whatever Brian wants to be, an Apple personal computer can help him be it” (YouTube). What I found very fascinating about this ad was the way the young male character leans over to the young female's computer and fiddles with her program, as if to mess her computer up. Even as I viewed it, the message that the commercial sent out was that boys were allowed to play with computers, while girls would only ever be subject to someone messing their program up and wouldn't become "an astronaut or marine biologist" like Brian (YouTube).

I was linked to this video from an NPR article titled "When Women Stopped Coding," which suggests that the gendered commercials may have had an impact on how many women went into science in the 1970s. A graph displayed on the website shows that since 1965, the amount of women in medical school, law school, and the physical sciences steadily rose - but later in 1985, the amount of women in computer science dropped drastically because “as personal computers became more common, computer science professors increasingly assumed that their students had grown up playing with computers at home” (NPR). However, many times the only students that grew up with computers were the boys, thus making them more able to keep up with their professors because they came into a class knowing how to use a computer, while the girls had been left behind and now struggled to understand the computers the way their male counterparts did. My interviewee, Jessica Kinzelman, supported this theory that gendered commercials contributed to the fall of women in computer-based careers, as she had entered into Texas A&M as a chemical engineering major, only to find that she was the only woman in her class and "didn’t even know how to turn the computer on" (Personal interview).

Obviously, this is only one theory out of many possible ones that can explain the fall of women in STEM classes or careers, but I do think that it is a very valid argument to be made.

What do you think about gendered commercials and how they contribute to the lack of women in STEM? Do you think this argument should be considered when analyzing how to get more women back into STEM careers?

22 Dead in Texas as Floodwaters Rise

The death toll in Texas has risen to 22 as a result of the torrential flooding that occurred over Memorial Day weekend. CNN reports: "So much rain has fallen this May on flood-ravaged Texas that it could cover the entire state with 8 inches of water." Even my hometown, Houston, fell victim to the extreme weather conditions. Many of my friends still living there said that school had been cancelled on Friday because of the flooding.

A car stuck in floodwater along Interstate 45 in Houston
Alyssa Ramierez, the homecoming queen of Devine High School in Devine, Texas, died in the floodwaters after her senior prom "around 2:45 a.m. Sunday within sight of [her] home about two miles away" (KTLA). This saddening story and many others that have begun to surface in the wake of this disaster only serve to highlight how disastrous the rain has been in Texas. 
Floodwaters rose above cars as shown in this photo

UFO or Meteor?

Two weeks ago on Saturday night at about 10:45 when I went outside to look at the sky, (it was a particularly clear night and I wanted to see the stars) I happened to look at the east quadrant of the sky and caught a bright green light streaking through the sky, and not like a plane or satellite - this was a bright, bright greenish-yellow light. Originally I thought it was something that fell out of the light on my street, but the light disappeared behind the line of trees.

So what was this mysterious light? I was fairly doubtful that it was an "unidentified flying object." I mean, I love Roswell as much as the next Netflix watcher, but it seemed highly unlikely. So I had to assume that this light was a meteor falling into the Earth's orbit.

The Geminid meteor shower in December
A basic Google search of "meteor shower 2015" will bring up numerous "meteor calendars" - that is, a chart of specific dates and approximate times of when you'll be able to see meteor showers. (For context, a meteor shower is any grouping of meteors that appear to come from one point in the sky as a result of the Earth passing through a steady stream of particles in its orbit. A specific shower is named for the constellation that most closely matches to where it appears the meteors are coming from, i.e. the Alpha Capricornids.) I've checked all the calendars since that night, and the only shower scheduled to happen in May was the Eta Aquariids, from April 19-May 26, with its peak night from May 6-7.

If you have any other theories as to what this light was or if you saw the light for yourself, feel free to leave a comment below!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sally!

Today as I was doing homework in my homeroom, my mom texted me: "You should look at the Google homepage!" Google occasionally makes clever banners on the search engine for famous people's birthdays or notable events, and so I was excited to see what they'd be representing today. I found this as the banner of choice:

Sally Ride as portrayed on the International Space Station

Today is what would have been Sally Ride's 64th birthday, and I thought the "Google Doodle" truly encapsulated how much of an inspiration Ride was. (To those who don't know, Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space.) The search engine rotated through five scenes that depicted various events from Ride's life, such as her journey to the International Space Station as well as a doodle showing her giving a lecture. They all were moving portraits, and I loved refreshing the page just to see what Google had come up with to commemorate this woman's wonderfully fantastic life.

Not only was Ride an astronaut, but she also had an important role on Earth as well - encouraging young women to go into STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in school. Women in STEM is a very important topic to me, and I wrote a term paper on it this semester. In any case, Ride founded the Sally Ride Science program in 2001 to "to inspire young people in STEM and to promote STEM literacy" (Sally Ride Science). Not only does it offer science camps for young people, the program has also funded "Sally Ride EarthKam," which, when in use upon the ISS, allows middle school students to submit places they'd like the astronauts to photograph for in-class use. I think the program is a great way to get young people, boys or girls, interested in the sciences. One of her most famous remarks was, "You can't be what you can't see," - if there is no one showing you that anyone can become an astronaut or engineer or mathematician, then how can you become it? Ride's goal was to show young people that they could become anything they wanted to be in STEM, and I think that not only the program but also the EarthKam is bringing the message of STEM back into the classroom. Sally Ride was an incredible woman and is missed by so many of us here on Earth.

What do you think of the Sally Ride Science's ways to bring STEM into the classroom? Do you think they are effective in showing the younger population that they can have a career in STEM?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Stalkers: A Short Film

Hey there! I realize this isn't really a blog, but I just wanted to let y'all know that you should really go see my friend Haley Hudkins' short film! It's called "Stalkers" and it's super duper cute (and she even features my original song "Maybe It's Just Love" at the end!)

Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed it!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Gender Inequalities: They Show Up in Outer Space, Too!

As I prepare to write my junior theme, the equivalent of a long term paper anywhere outside of my high school, I will be researching humans in space - specifically, women in space. Our paper must focus on a "why question" and then attempt to answer that question. In my class, our teachers are requiring us to have a historical aspect in our paper, so I immediately thought of space. There is a lot of history in NASA's flights and accomplishments, and I thought that my approach to the topic, the gender inequalities in astronauts, would be a good fit for what is required of me along with my general interests.

As of today, there have been a total of 354 American citizens to go into space - 305 of them men, but only 49 of them women (NASA). These statistics shocked and confused me. Why is there an enormous gap between the number of men and women to go into space? This question led me to the book I am currently reading: Promised the Moon by Stephanie Nolen.
What I have read so far has been incredible. In 1959, 21 American women were recruited to take NASA's astronaut tests as part of Randy Lovelace's "Women in Space" program, the same tests taken by male astronaut candidates. (Lovelace was the chair of NASA's Life Sciences Committee.) Thirteen of those women passed the first series of tests, but before they could take the second series, the testing was cancelled in 1961 and never resumed. These women, who thought they were going to be some of the first female astronauts, never got their chance to prove they could do the same jobs as their male counterparts. NASA's History page states: "NASA required all astronauts to be graduates of military jet test piloting programs and have engineering degrees. In 1962, no women could meet these requirements. Although the Subcommittee was sympathetic to the women's arguments, no action resulted." In an age when women needed their husband's "signature to buy a car" (Nolen 4), I think it wasn't unusual for these thirteen women to not be able to meet the requirements to be astronauts as set by NASA.

Personally, I can't even begin to comprehend this issue. While I still have yet to finish my book, I think the gender gap issue in space is outrageous. Hopefully some more research in preparation for my junior theme can bring answers as to why the gap is so large today.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Whatcha Say?

A little while ago I heard the song "Whatcha Say" by Jason Derulo. In it, he literally inserts bits of the chorus of Imogen Heap's song "Hide and Seek", a practice called "sampling". I think this is quite interesting that as a musical artist, he is allowed to just take whatever part of a song he wants and put it in his song. I thought I'd use this topic as a continuation on my posts about similarities between songs.

I say that Derulo was allowed to take a part of Heap's song and put it in his own - but he didn't do it without permission. Imogen Heap gave her formal permission to Derulo ( and defended her decision on her Twitter account in 2009

Heap is shown here as credited with co-writing the song (Wikipedia)
And as you can see from the photo below, Imogen Heap is credited as one of the authors of the song.

I think it is interesting that Derulo chose to sample "Hide and Seek" in his song. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of the rap/pop style his music embodies, but I do have to give him musical props for the way he mixed Heap's song in with his own lyrics. I think musically the song is adventurous, new, and something different that I haven't really heard before. 

Some people on his YouTube video weren't too pleased with the new, remixed song:

But I think that Derulo should be allowed to experiment with his music, and if Heap gave him permission to use her song, why shouldn't he see if he can make an interesting new song? And for that matter, wouldn't the new song provide exposure for the original song?

What are your opinions of Jason Derulo mixing Imogen Heap's song with his own? Do you think he was rightfully allowed to sample from her music, or do you think Heap shouldn't have let him use her song?