SciTech Briefs

Massive study puts numbers to STEM gender gap

In a comprehensive new study, researchers from the University of Melbourne determined the gender gap in research throughout the STEM world. After analyzing 36 million authors listed on over 10 million scientific articles, they calculated the numerical disparity between men and women in nearly all fields of science and medicine in over 100 countries.

Senior researchers (for example, first authors) were more likely to be men, and junior researchers were more likely to be women. Wealthy countries like Japan and Germany had significantly bigger gender gaps than developing countries. Of the fields of study analyzed, 20 percent were very close to gender parity (within five percent).

The data has been made public online, so that decision makers can use it to keep informed.


Features on Pluto's moon Charon get names

When the New Horizons probe passed Pluto's moon Charon in 2015, it took the first clear photos of the moon, revealing features on its surface — craters, mountains, and ravine-like formations called chasmas. Now, many of Charon's features have received official names from the International Astronomical Union.

Charon's craters were named after legendary explorers, including Revati of the Indian epic Mahabharata, and Nemo for Jules Verne's fictional submarine captain. Chasmas were named after ships of myths and legend: Argo, Caleuche, and Manjet

Charon's mountains received the names of real-life pioneers of science fiction, including Octavia Butler, Stanley Kubrick, and Arthur C. Clarke.

Source: Science News

Seals hunt like their land family

"True seals" like harbor seals and harp seals retain the claws that helped their ancestors hunt on land. These claws are not just remnants of the past; they actively help these modern seals in their ocean hunting, marine biologists reported April 18 in Royal Society Open Science.

The biologists, led by David Hocking from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, spent hundreds of hours observing wild seals hunting in Scotland and watching seals eat in captivity.

The true seals relied heavily on their claws to hunt and eat, resembling the use of claws in land hunters like bears. Claws let true seals hunt bigger prey, the researchers concluded. They caught prey underwater and tore it apart when they surfaced, as opposed to seals and sea lions who lack claws and tend to pursue prey that they can swallow whole and immediately, like small fish.

Source: Science News

Ravens derail LIGO data collection

At the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), scientists noticed an unusual signal that didn't resemble the gravitational waves LIGO was designed to detect.

When LIGO scientists investigated, they found that the signal was the sound of pecking birds, picked up by a microphone meant to monitor LIGO's environment.

The pecking sound was from ravens, who had been pecking at an outdoor cooling pipe. The birds were snacking on the ice crystals forming on the outside of the pipe to get some cool relief from the heat.

The setup has since been altered so that the pipes will no longer accumulate ice.

Source: Science News