Friday, October 26, 2012

Ada Lovelace Day post... about me!


I like to see how people find things from secret minouette places, thus I do check out the shop statistics. I was flattered and surprised to see that QUEST ("an award-winning multimedia science and environment series created by KQED, San Francisco, the public media station serving Northern California") had posted to their blog about Ada Lovelace Day, including my portaits of both Ada, Countess Lovelace and Chien-Shung Wu in Madame Wu and the Violation of Parity. Further, the author was kind enough to write,
Women like Lovelace and Wu are particularly inspiring because they entered STEM fields at times in history when few women saw it as an option. But valuable role models can also be found among contemporary female scientists–such as the creator of the Madame Wu woodcut!* For her day job, geophysicist Eleanor Willoughby studies** marine gas hydrates at the University of Toronto. But as minouette, she makes and sells beautiful linoleum block prints on Etsy, many of them inspired by science and scientists–including the print of Countess Lovelace, Enchantress of Numbers, shown above.

(If you aren't familiar with the term, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.) I'm very flattered to read this, and to be described as a role model. They found my work through the recent post on The Finch and Pea and the brief description of my scientific research through the university website.

Mme Wu

physicsworld I'm glad to see that the version of Madame Wu and the Violation of Parity included is the second edition. This is because I made a small correction! Never before have I corrected a linocut for scientific accuracy. You see, I got a friendly note from the editor of Physics World inviting me to respond to a letter to the editor about my artwork on the September issue cover. Though I (and, actually, a fair number of scientists I know) had looked at the image many times, it had escaped my notice that the polarity of the currents did not match the direction of the magnetic fields. I felt quite sheepish to read this as it was something I had thought about and specifically intended to avoid. However, it's the printmaker's perpetual pitfall; just as type must be reversed, it turns out that the wrapping of a solenoid must be reversed in a relief print! So, in my sketch and on my block, the physics is correct, but the process of making a relief print reversed the geometry (so the currents no longer matched the magnetic field directions). The irony here is that this parallels Madame Wu's experiment and the violation of parity itself! The physics is simply not the same when reflected as in the mirror. The simple correction is to change the current direction by removing the '+' symbols and reversing the short and long lines in the symbol for the power source. I wrote a response letter which I thought was very cute, explaining that the error was 'an artifact of my methodology', which is how physicists speak to one another (but I think my little joke did not make the cut).

*the process is very similar, but it's actually a linocut
**should be passed tense, as I am not currently at U of T

No comments: