Category Archives: Follies of the Human Condition

Science for the People: Secure Communications

sftp-square-fistonly-whitebgThis week, Science for the People is looking at technology for keeping secrets safe from prying eyes and ears. We’re joined by Dan Younger, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Waterloo, to discuss the remarkable work of his colleague Bill Tutte, who broke the German Lorenz Code during World War II. We’ll also discuss the cutting edge of quantum security with Physics and Computer Science Professor Shohini Ghose.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Musicians and scientists

Can you name a “musisci” – a person involved in both music and science? This was a question I asked over seven hundred people in a survey, and the answer looked like this:musisci

Without the top five answers, you can more clearly see some of the other ones:


As you can see, there are a lot of people who have both music and science in their life, and this includes about a third of survey respondents, as well.

Survey responses musisci.007

For the full results of the survey, see my blog post on I’m also starting a quarterly newsletter about the musician/scientist overlap. First issue will go out today (with more survey results, some music, and related links), and the next one in August. You can sign up here if you’d like to receive it.

The Missing, Female History of STEM

Chief Technology Officer of the United States Megan Smith discusses the problems of erasing women from the history of science and technology with Charlie Rose. It is not that the historical role models for young women don’t exist. It is that we actively expunge them from our narratives.
As Rose suggests with a question, it is hard to imagine how this practice actually benefits anyone – other than an intellectually lazy adherence to our standard, male-centric narrative.

HT: Caroline Siede at BoingBoing.

What’s on your “To Do” List?

This was my four-year-old’s “To Do” list. I think she gets it.

Unfortunately, investing in her life coaching sessions is not cheap*.

*Insert college tuition joke here.

Days of the Enola Gay

In a must read article at Slate, Ben Lillie (Story Collider) looks at the events surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope protests at Mauna Kea. He challenges scientists and the science community to recognize and reflect on the dark parts of our history – and how that history affects today’s events:

I’m disturbed that this conflict came as a surprise, and disturbed about what that says about the culture of science. I’m disturbed by how scientists see ourselves as separate from culture and history, unaffected by it, and not responsible for its ills, and I wonder what we can do about that…And so transcendence can take the form of blindness to differences between people and to our own biases.
Ben Lillie

I am compelled by his argument that we should, in addition to the days we promote for celebrating scientific achievement, set aside days in our year for reflecting on the regrettable aspects of scientific history. The Days of the Enola Gay (8:15AM 6 August – 11:02AM 9 August) will be going on The Finch & Pea‘s calendar of holidays (in the traditional sense of holy days).