Archive for April, 2012


Postulating on the Gender Pay Gap

April 18, 2012

For a couple days on the news, there was discussion about a report that had come out talking about how long it would take women to earn the wage a man does in a similar position.  InColorado, women earn 79 cents for every dollar that a man makes.  There are Equal Pay laws that should prevent that, but apparently there are loopholes that companies are taking advantage of.  So with the outrage over women not getting paid as much as men, I wonder, how do we assert change?  It’s easy to sit in an office, or type on the internet expounding what needs to change, but it’s another thing to do it.  But really what I want to understand is why it still exists as a mindset. Why is it still so difficult to see women as equals?  It seems to me that the majority of people agree that in a marriage, the couple should be equal, so if they can be equal in marriage, why is it difficult to make it equal in the workplace?

I didn’t grow up in the 40s or 50s when it’s portrayed that women stay home and take care of the house and children, and men go to work, so I don’t know what that’s like, but I know that during the two World Wars, women had to go to work, and they were capable.  The fact that many men, who went to war overseas, came back and married a younger woman because all the women their age were independent, is a testament to the fact that women could perform “manly” tasks.  So if those women proved they could do it, how did things roll back to women could only be housewives?

I want to stop and mention that I’m just throwing thoughts out of my head.  I understand that this really isn’t what has happened, but sometimes it feels like it, and when I’m stuck with one view, I welcome someone else coming along and pointing out other ways to see it.  So lets have a conversation.  Why, in 2012, are women still making less than men?


Discovery’s Final Flight

April 17, 2012

Today was the day that the space shuttle Discovery moved to her final home.  It’s scary to think that theUShas no vehicle to get to space, other than paying the Russians.  Last time there was a transition between vehicles that had a time gap; the original gap was doubled in time.  I can only imagine that with a large chunk of theUSthinking that NASA is irrelevant and needs to be ended, the gap will probably be doubled, at least.  I understand that private industry is throwing their hat into the ring, but it isn’t the same.  Private industry is out for themselves.  They want to make money; they want to be better than the next guy.  I’m all for competition and being the best, but I also think space exploration should be about learning, and furthering our knowledge and technology.  So knowing that we’ve got years of relying on other countries to gain knowledge of what’s out there, makes me wish I could convince the rest of the country that NASA is not the defunct and pointless organization that they think it is.

But what would convince people that may never reap the benefits of space exploration?


Thoughts About Girls Interested in STEM

April 12, 2012

Next week I’m going to volunteer for an event that I think is just wonderful.  The event is called GESTEM (Girls Exploring Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and it’s geared towards 7th grade girls, getting to experience a day full of STEM opportunities.  A couple years ago, I was the media person, and got to participate as a group guide, this year, I’m just going to be a group guide, and I’m excited that I have the opportunity to participate again.  We had a mini training session yesterday and there were some interesting things that the organizers wanted to make sure we had.  One of those was a list of ideas, phrases, or terms that resonate with young girls, and things to avoid.

One of the things to avoid was talking about how to be inSTEMthere has to be a love of math.  This is one of the items that kept me out of engineering in the beginning.  I hated math, and I had math teachers that encouraged my hatred, by not helping to teach to my style of learning.  But I ended up doing engineering, and I ended up enjoying some math, and not hating it.  So when I talk to the girls in my group, I want to tell them that you don’t have to have a love of math, you don’t have to like math, I did.  But I learned to appreciate it, and I learned to enjoy it, and with the right professors, they could too.  But I want to make sure that they understand that math shouldn’t be a road block.  There is always a helpful classmate, a tutor, or a professor that will sit and explain things until you get it.  I had my share of help from all three, and I treasure those opportunities.  Without that support, I never would have made it, and I want girls to know that engineering, orSTEMin general, is not that boys club that it was in the past.

Some of my best friends while in school, where fellow engineers, guys who wanted to protect me, and keep me safe.  They would help me understand a topic, and treated me like an equal. STEMis not the men vs women that it used to be.  I hope that message gets through to them.  We need more women.


Those Darn Leverage Arms

April 9, 2012

Last post I mentioned being excited about sharing real world examples of acoustics.  I’ve been learning a lesson over and over, when I exit the garage to go into my apartment, and it amuses me.  The door into the hallway sticks if you push on the push bar, close to the opening side of the door.  That means that to open the door, you have to push the push bar closer to the hinge.  Closer to the hinge means that you don’t have the same leverage arm, and therefore you have to use your foot to help nudge the door open.  So every time I get to the door, I go through the amusing situation of attempting to open the door from the wrong side, from the correct side without the leverage, and then finally remembering to use my foot to nudge the door open.  Sometimes, I want to sit and wait and see if other people have trouble with the door.  But each time it happens, I think about how, sometimes, it may seem like I haven’t learned anything, but I understand why changing where I push open the door changes the difficulty of opening the door, and that makes me smile.  I will be an engineer yet!


More Real World Examples

April 6, 2012

Whenever we heard about natural occurrences of acoustics and vibrations in class, I always got excited.  It’s one thing to do problems that simulate real world examples, but it’s another to hear about something that actually happened.  For example, when we learned about the Aeolian Harp, I was able to take that information and feed it back to my dad, and solve a question he had been puzzling over for awhile.  He used to take walks in the cemetery and sometimes would hear the power lines buzzing and vibrating in a way that was different than the normal 60 Hz hum in this country.  The noise was a result of turbulence causing these little swirling vortices to shear off on the back end of the power lines.  Think of staring down into water, where there’s an obstruction, immediately behind the obstruction are little vortices.  So in a different medium, air, those little vortices create turbulence which creates noise and you have the Aeolian Harp.  I was so excited to be able to answer a question my dad had been puzzling over.

Another real world example deals with the fun of temperature inversions.  Did you know, that sometimes, when the temperature is just right, sound can bounce over nearby areas, and make people two miles, or more, away from a sound event think it’s extremely close?   Those little old ladies that complain about the concert going on five miles away from them, are in a temperature inversion and the sound has bounced over to them.  It’s not their fault, and it’s not the concert venue’s fault either, it’s nature’s fault.  Isn’t that awesome and frustrating at the same time?

The last thing that always gets me excited, is watching theTacomaNarrowsBridgeincident.  I find it amazing that metal can bend that way, that something as strong as a bridge, falls apart that magnificently.  It didn’t happen immediately, because someone had time to go home and get a camera, but it happened the same day it started.  The incident happened because someone didn’t take into account all modes of vibration, and the wind came along and excited the natural frequency of that mode of vibration, and the rest is history (I just happened across the Wikipedia article that lists some other reasons for the failure of the bridge, an aeroelastic flutter.  I’m still going to use my natural frequency explanation be cool).  In addition to showing the awesome power of nature, this also reinforces how important it is, as a designer, engineer, builder, to take into account every angle of attack when looking at modes of failure.

Anyway, these are just a few examples of acoustics and vibration in real life.  If you could see my face as I typed them up, I had a big goofy grin.  These are the things that get me so excited, that make me so in awe of the physics of sound.  Hooray science!


Musings on my ‘Lunch Hour’

April 4, 2012

During my 1 hour lunch break, I allow myself to turn the TV back on, and I happened across an episode of the show The Doctors.  I only watched a few minutes of it, but they were discussing the argument about whether men are becoming less manly.  And, since one of the things I’m interested in writing about, is related to gender, I thought I’d weigh in on my initial reaction to what was being said.  The issue was discussed from multiple views, including physiology.  Since I am not a doctor, nor do I really keep up on medical news, I can’t refute anything they said.  The issue there is that men are reporting a lower level of testosterone, and the sperm count is falling.  From that standpoint, I can see the argument that men are become less masculine, less manly.

However, I am frustrated by this need to define men and women by masculine and feminine, in the sense that, if you aren’t fixing things, you aren’t manly.  I understand that for many years, men did the heavy lifting, they fixed the cars, and they fixed whatever needed fixing.  However, I don’t think it’s fair to call that manly, because there are plenty of women that are into fixing things, and cars.  As a female engineer, I find myself interested in, and excited over things that many people consider masculine items.  I am not a man, and I am not masculine, but I like explosions, and action movies, and geeky and nerdy items.  My belief is that we should stop calling men manly, and women feminine.  Our society isn’t that black and white anymore, and the labels are not helping society unite.

Yes, it is important to understand why testosterone levels are dropping, or why the sperm count is going down, but that should be the only concern.  Going back to the tv show I was watching, they had a short clip of people being asked if men were less manly now compared to twenty years ago.  Everyone said yes, but I don’t think it’s a valid question.  Society now, is completely different from society then.  Society back in the Renaissance is different from society in the present time.  At each point in time, there is a specific purpose, or goal, or unifying driving factor, that influences the roles of society.  I don’t think it’s fair to challenge the validity of one society over another.  Nothing in life is certain, nothing in life is static, and it is always changing.  Why do we, as a society insist on making everything static?


Current Events That Struck a Chord

April 3, 2012

Recently, 60 Minutes, did a story about the SpaceCoast, and how it has changed now that the Shuttle Program has been shut down.  It was a very difficult piece to watch because it just emphasized how hard it is to get a job right now.  And I being an unemployed entry-level engineer hearing about people with many more years of experience not getting a job does not give me much confidence.  However, it’s good that it’s out there.  I feel very strongly about NASA and manned spaceflight and I’m not sure how I feel with privatization compared with keeping it a government agency.  I can see positives on both sides of the coin.  As a response to 60 Minutes, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote a blog about how the story about the SpaceCoastdid not tell the whole story.  He talked about how he and President Obama were working hard to create more jobs, and that unemployment in Brevard County, Floridawere the lowest they had been since 2009.  (You can see the 60 Minutes video here: and Bolden’s response here: )

I think it’s great that people are working so hard to bring unemployment down.  I think it’s great that people are still talking about NASA as something important, and I understand that many people feel NASA has become pointless.  It is this last fact that has me concerned.  I could go into a long diatribe about how Americans just aren’t inspired anymore, and care more about what celebrity had the foie gras for lunch, than they do about significant science progress, but that’s not what my point is for this post.

Because NASA is a government agency, and the leaders are chosen by the President, the future of NASA changes every 4 years.  It could be dramatic, or it could be something small.  Either way, the direction is a very fluid thing.  So while it’s great that President Obama is promising to bring more jobs, jobs in the space industry may not always be a priority.  If the people whom elect the next president don’t see a point to NASA, the next president is less likely to work to improve the conditions in that industry.  I see this as one of those big negatives out there, as related to working for NASA, but at the same time, knowing all that doesn’t change that I would love for a chance to work in that industry.  It’s not going to be glorious and rosy all the time, but nothing is.

So I choose to take Administrator Bolden’s words as a piece of hope with which to grasp and cling to.  The world isn’t perfect, the country isn’t perfect, but when we have opportunities that spark our imagination and creativity, I think it’s important to let those shine and continue to glow.  What do you think?  Is hoping that NASA will still be there tomorrow, fostering the edge of exploration in space just a pipe dream?