Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Gender ratios in physics students in the US and UK....

Why do A-level physics gender ratios in the UK and BSc physics major gender ratios in the USA show similar trends offset by 15 years....?

In the UK the trend flatlined (or began declining) around 1985. I the USA the flat line/decline starts around 2000. There should be an offset of about 4 years (the length of time it takes to get a degree in the USA), but I don't understand 15 years.... 

Modelling Data - Example using A-level Physics Gender Trends

Love this blog post: "Brent and Levenberg-Marquardt: the bread and butter algorithms for postgrads" which uses data I collected as an example for modelling trends.
I collected these data to include in an article I was invited to write for Astronomy&Geophysics on "Women of the future in the RAS". In that article I conclude: "Fitting a straight line to this 60-year trend and dangerously extrapolating the poor linear fit into the future, we find that we can't expect gender equality in physics A-level until 2163."

The data is not cheerful, and a linear increase model does not fit it well. In fact according 's best fit model, recent years show a decline in the fraction of A-level physicsists who are women. 
Credit to Val Aslanyan ( for this version of this plot.

What to Call your Professor?

Nice infographic which may help with the age old question - why do so many people call me Mrs. Masters? (PS. That's my Mother, or my Nanna, but never me, my patriarchal married name would be different.....)
So, you're taking a class... What do you call your professor?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tech Support for Finding Stars

Here's an article by Benji Jones for Gizmodo in which I was interviewed about helping people find stars they have "bought".

People Can't Find the Stars They Paid to Name—and They're Calling Astronomers for Tech Support

The main points:
  •  There is nothing official about buying a star - you're just buying a nice certificate.
  • Many of the stars cannot be seen without substantial amateur size telescopes
  • You can see them online fairly easilly. 
I had previously (like over a decade ago!) written about this for the Curious about Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer website.: "How can I find the star that I bought?"