For Lovelace day 2015: Professor Tomoko Ohta, the proposer of the 'nearly neutral' model of genetic drift. This important modification to earlier theories describes the effect of random changes in the genome on the evolutionary direction of a species. Her work has implications for the speed of evolution in small populations (such as those being created scarily rapidly by ecological damage, for example) and to estimate how long it takes species to diverge from each other. This year, she received the Crafoord prize, one of the world’s biggest scientific prizes, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences this year for her life’s work.
How did I end up working in nanotechnology and smart materials? This is a surprisingly difficult question, and for some reason involved three years as a writer. However, I’ve done some research (by which I mean I called my mum) and I have deduced the following:
(Original 2011/10/13 / Updated 2015/10/13 — see below)
Think of science things. Newton's laws, Celsius' degrees, Maxwell's distributions, Hertzsprung and Russell's diagram, Chandrasekhar's limit, fermi's -ons... You know you've made it in science when you get something named after you. Which is why I particularly want to big up the lady I'm talking about today1, because she did some ubiquitous work and noone's even heard of her, let alone tagged her name to her invention. Which is... duh duh duh!
In my ongoing studies of making Small Shit That Does Shit™ (AKA functional nanomaterials) I have created a device that uses shaped, high frequency soundwaves to move around things a micrometer across (0.001 millimetres) without touching them. You could call it an audio-vibratory, physio-molecular transport device.
In the interests of presenting a more accurate picture of the genuine process of research, here is a fairly comprehensive list of things that did not go to plan in the first mini-research project I and partner undertook:
(Originally posted 24 March 2010)
It's Ada Lovelace day! Time to draw attention to women in science — often ignored, never deservedly. My chosen lady is:
I just came to the end of three years as the communications, events and marketing manager for UCL Engineering — 11 departments, 1,000 staff, and 3,500 students, working on things ranging from testing new biofuels to spotting browser insecurities. I did a lot of things for UCL Engineering, including writing about their discoveries and projects, taking photos, editing films, working out sponsorship, and commissioning merchandise. A few highlights...
It’s a Saturday and I’m heading to a conference. I’m late, because it’s a Saturday. But I’m going to sit in a lecture theatre in my free time because it’s London Cryptofestival.
Billed as ‘coming together [...] to reclaim our right to communicate and experiment on the internet’, this independent, DIY event is aimed at both the usual security conscious techheads and non-experts just interested in the possibilities of, and threats to, privacy online. Given numerous recent revelations about the NSA and GCHQ’s work, as well as an increasing amount of our lives being documented online, I was up for that. I might even get to meet some people I could share my new PGP key with.1
Speaking as a bitter intellectual who was always picked last in PE, the Olympics suck. A host of wunderkind who had the good judgement to be born with a handful of genes optimising them for a highly-specialised nonsensical behaviour go on a jolly. A joyful populace gets to embrace the value of healthy exercise and physical activity by testing their posteriors' endurance and goggling at said prancing Greek godlings emblazoned with adverts for fast food. Some government blows a discretionary budget and then some on sports infrastructure — so much more crucial to the wellbeing of a country than digital infrastructure or sewer pipes — and 'rejuvenating' some poor estate to within an inch of its life with some excitingly edgy street art.
Boy, Susan Greenfield's argument is weak. (Check it out here, but it's basically just more of her 'modern tech scares me and it should scare you, why do I think so? Because I'm me.')
She says that doing too much of something is detrimental, which is almost a tautology, and then just reiterates this comment and her non-evidence based worries, interleaved with citing someone else's version of this comment and his non-evidence based worries. Conspicuously lacking are any facts, observable evidence, or indications of trends — and particularly disturbing is that despite this, she is continuing to garner attention for her theories.