Anytime there is a major scientific discovery, it's pretty cool. We are constantly learning more about our world, distant worlds, and, in some cases, ourselves. What's extra cool is when these major discoveries come courtesy of women in science.
A team of researchers from Witwatersrand University, led by Prof. Lee Berger but entirely composed of women, has discovered a new primitive human species, Homo naledi. The species appears to have walked upright like modern humans and had similar teeth in both shape and number, but it had a significantly smaller skull capacity and a more primitive pelvis and shoulders. One of the most important aspects of this discovery is that these primitive humans may have displayed ritual behavior and symbolic thought long before scientists previously assumed.
Earlier in the year, there was a bit of hubbub over just how distracting female scientists were for men in laboratories and out in the field. Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt was quoted as saying:
Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and – when you criticise them – they cry.
Why does it matter what one self-described 'chauvinist pig' has to say? Never mind that he's an important man in science -- they don't just give out Nobel Prizes like candy -- but we shouldn't be discouraging women to pursue scientific careers for any reason, especially not on the basis of ridiculous claims like they cry in labs. STEM careers still have proportionally low levels of female involvement despite the general workforce in the US being 47% women:
Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (58%) and biological and medical sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (13%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%).
The best things, in my opinion, to come out of Hunt's comments were the many selfies from female scientists, showing just how distractingly sexy they can be in lab coats, cover-alls, and safety masks and goggles.
— Stephanie Evans (@StephEvz43) June 10, 2015