We landed on a comet! How cool is that?
Everyone’s been really excited about this Rosetta mission, and so have I. It’s a cool example of the international community working together, plus there’s space! I love space.
To top it off, the project director for NASA’s contribution to the project is a black woman, Claudia Alexander. She spoke with the LA Times about being a woman in a predominantly white male field. Alexander said her experiences as an African-American woman were even a benefit in communicating with the European Space Agency:
I’m used to walking between two different cultures. For me, this is among the purposes of my life — to take us from states of ignorance to states of understanding with bold exploration that you can’t do every day.
She’s a great role model for girls interested in STEM fields (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). I’m really glad she’s been visible in this project, actively combatting the stereotype that women can’t science.
Speaking of which, did you see the story about the Rosetta scientist who wore a sexist shirt, Dad? This dude wore a shirt covered in sexy ladies for an interview, sending the message, as The Atlantic’s science writer Rose Eveleth pointed out, that STEM is maybe not so welcoming to women.
To his credit, the scientist, Matt Taylor, has apologized for his fashion choices. It’s a very good example of how critique and dialogue can help bring about more thoughtful choices.
But Rosetta’s not the only great thing happening in science right now. In the fictional science world, we have a whole slew of new scientists to admire. I just recently saw both “Interstellar” and “Big Hero 6,” and have to recommend both. In addition to having great stories and wonderful, emotional depth, these two movies put science at the forefront, and women play huge roles in that.
In “Interstellar,” which had a physicist as one of its executive producers and has won praise from Neil DeGrasse Tyson for its faithfulness to Einstein’s theories, two of the main scientists are women. Dr. Brand is a gutsy explorer and physicist who risks everything to save humanity, while Dr. Murphy Cooper is a plucky young kid who grows into a brilliant and perceptive physicist. Both of these women are main characters and have wonderful story arcs.
“Big Hero 6” is an awesome movie for kids that makes science and education cool. While maybe less faithful to reality, the robotics at play are fantastic and riveting. In addition, it features a diverse cast (with an Asian-American protagonist) and two more female roboticists! I loved, too, that these two women show there’s no one proper way to be a girl. Honey Lemon is bubbly and loves pink and is super feminine, while Gogo is tougher, riding a bike she invented and telling people to “woman up.” Both are independent, developed characters.
So there’s a lot of things to be excited about this week: I’m excited for my female friends in engineering, that they have more examples of women like them; I’m excited for the little girls watching movies and comet landings, seeing what women are capable of; I’m excited for the guys who will see these women and understand how valuable it is to have multiple viewpoints and voices in projects; I’m excited for both the arts and the sciences to have more women making inroads, setting examples, and diversifying the stories and ideas that are available.
And I’m just feeling positive and encouraged over all.