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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Science Corner – Women hold up half the sky

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Did you notice that February 11 was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science? If not, you can still celebrate it today! It was established by the United Nations in 2015 to help achieve gender parity in educational opportunity and science generally.

We are not there yet, but there is no difference between girls’ and boys’ abilities in science when given the same opportunities and encouragement, and the world can use more scientists. The great challenges facing humanity such as climate change and clean energy, pandemics, nutrition and many others depend on science, and we need all the help we can get!

I am privileged to be part of an experiment studying fundamental particles and forces using the Large Hadron Collider, a huge proton accelerator across the Swiss-French border near Geneva. The good news is that there are about one thousand women scientists, engineers and students working on that project. Most work remotely from their universities (at home now) all over the world. The not-so-good news is that they are only about 20% of that huge collaboration, but efforts on everybody’s part to improve that are helping.

Particles of much higher energy than even in the LHC, called cosmic rays, are raining down on Earth. We don’t know where they come from or how they get such high energies. A project in Argentina called the Auger Observatory is trying to find out, with detectors on the ground covering five times the area of the city of Chicago. Many of the women in that project celebrated the IDWGS by sharing their experiences. Here are some of their messages to other girls:

Adriana Vasquez (Colombia): “Don’t let anyone condition your curiosity and with perseverance you will get wherever you want to go.”

Alexandra Saftoiu (Romania): “When you do what you love nothing can stop you!”

Antonella Catellina (Italy): “When I was a girl, I was fascinated by the night sky, and wondered not only about stars, but even more about what was hidden beyond, in the dark. A passion that has always been with me, which I shared with my daughter: growing together the tree of knowledge. So, if you love science, take the challenge: no barriers or gender issues can stop you if you fight to walk forward!”

I wish I could go on! Ioanna Maris (Belgium) said: “Research in physics is some of the greatest fun I have ever had; it is up to you to join and enjoy understanding the Universe!”

For more great quotes visit, www.auger.org/index.php/edu-outreach/women-in-science.

Your day job may have little to do with science, but everyone can enjoy it!

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Michael Albrow
Michael Albrow is a scientist emeritus at Fermilab, Batavia and a member of Naperville Sunrise Rotary. Born in England, Mike lived in Switzerland and Sweden before settling in the U.S. 25 years ago.

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