How did it take me so long to notice this?

Proof that I’ve been neglecting my blogroll to a degree, I missed this TED talk.

Its by Dr. Neil Turok, a Physicist at Cambridge and founder of AIMS(African institute of Mathematical Sciences) which is a school in South Africa that brings together students from all over the continent for a 9 month postgraduate course to learn advanced mathematical and computer skills.

The talk is very, very much worth listening to. And I’m wondering if they’ll have use for a certain Ghanaian physicist in a few years time. This is one of those jobs I’d be more than happy to settle into.

Truly inspiring

Via Pam, a story about Major Robert H. Lawrence, a US air force pilot and the first black astronaut.

Interestingly enough I always thought Ronald McNair (another personal hero and inspiration) was the first. I guess we learn new things all the time.

Honestly, stories about people like that do a lot to keep me on track. Its unlikely I’ll ever face anything in my life as challenging as the troubles they faced and yet they made it. What can my excuse possibly be?

Back by popular demand, Profiles of Black Physicists

I figured this time I’d post about someone who is actually alive. I think there’s a tendency to focus on the dead and ignore the living. The man pictured above is Dr Sylvester James Gates, Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland. He has a BS in physics and mathematics from MIT as well as a phd in physics, also from MIT. I first found out who he was while watching a three part NOVA special on string theory (yes, ladies and gentlemen, in case the title of the blog didn’t give it away, I am a geek)
Apparently, he’s one of the foremost experts in the field of string theory. He’s also considered one of the best there is at explaining the concepts behind string theory to the general public.
Now, for those of you who are less technically inclined, string theory is an attempt to explain all structure and interaction in the universe in terms of vibrating ‘strings’. Its an extremely mathematically intensive field and as close as you can get to cutting edge science in theoretical physics these days. The people involved in it spend most of their time dealing with concepts that can be fully understood by maybe 20 people on the planet.
He’s actually pretty high up on the list of people I want to meet. The next time I’m in Maryland, I’ll probably swing by the college and sit in on one of his classes.

Edward Alexander Bouchet, 1st black physicist (1852 – 1918)

I mentioned that I would be making a couple of posts dealing specifically with black history month. Yes, the month is already halfway over but I don’t recall any rule saying I can’t start late or make these posts in November for that matter. Anyway we will be starting with something near and dear to my heart, physics.

The man pictured above is Dr. Edward Alexander Bouchet. Ph.D Physics, 1877, Yale University and member of Phi Beta Kappa. He spent most of the rest of his life teaching chemistry and physics at an all black school in Philadelphia. All this at a time in when most black people were lucky to get any kind of rudimentary education at all.

People like him inspire me greatly. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be a black graduate student in the 1870’s. He probably faced obstacles I can barely imagine on a fairly regular basis and yet he stayed true to his goal and excelled. That kind of strength of character gives me something to strive for and helps make me a better person.

Dr. Bouchet, wherever you are, I’m probably not worthy to walk in your footsteps. But I’m going to try anyway.