Back in the Saddle

Dear Dialog,

Back in the saddle again, so to speak. The winter break was nice, got to recharge, see my family and visit my partner’s family, too. A separation from the academic life showed me where I tend to exist is, to some extent, a bubble. I faced different challenges than I was anticipating and did not have challenges where I thought they might arise. It also feels good to be back into a stride.

Getting back up on the horse that is research has been straight forward this year. With a semester under my belt, I have a decent understanding of what I should be doing: find a candidate site, download some images, analyze those images, repeat. I can put my blinders on and focus on the carrot being dangled in front of me. This year, I have already finished up the a couple of projects that I hadn’t gotten around to last semester (with the exception of a final branding of approval by Catherine). For example, check out Zumba crater and all that melt! Whee-doggie that looks good!

In situ map of Zumba. Orange refers to pitted pools, blue to smooth pools, and pink to possible pools. The line refers to the rim of the crater measured from a HiRISE-made DTM.

In situ map of Zumba. Orange refers to pitted pools, blue to smooth pools, and pink to possible pools. The line refers to the rim of the crater measured from a HiRISE-made DTM.

I have written down my process and will follow it for the next few projects. Sheepishly, I admit I have been avoiding completing my current favorite site, Mojave crater. As of today, I have 40 GB of images to work with and I want to be sure that I won’t waste my time doing a massive project that is incorrect. Rest assured, I am champing at the bit to complete that one.

Another fun tidbit for the current times is the US government is currently in its 3rd week of a shutdown and the USGS Astrogeology site has been been down when I try to access it. A minor inconvenience, but I will need it to be up an running to process images eventually. It’s feasible to code it but the site’s server is already pretty fast at doing it.


Part 2.

I recently came across Felice House, an artist who takes a critical eye towards traditional imagery. In this gallery, she reimagines old western heroes as females. By combining techniques of computer science and painting with gender-bent ideas, she effectively challenges and shifts our preconception of what femininity and masculinity may look like. These examples show that our existing ideas or representations of professions could use a second hard look. As detailed here, the use of classic male body language and physically dominating size (the last image for a comparison) lend to the challenge of traditional gender roles. And I would argue that the heavy handedness of the color red throughout adds to the depiction of female empowerment. (More than) A few questions come to mind in this gallery. Why are cowboys thought of as ultra macho and the epitome of American masculinity? What influences have propagated that idea? Why have women not been depicted in a similar way? Why does this challenge us in the first place? Does this bias still exist today? There are of course lots of questions and answers that can be sparked by this gallery. Since this is an academic-focused blog, let’s try using that framework. Why are scientists often thought of as male? What power comes into play maintaining that status quo? Why are women underrepresented in STEM fields? Would we be challenged if similar artwork was created about our field today?

And to drive home the point of unequal treatment of genders, a twitter post about an astrophysicist:

With these questions in mind, taking a critical eye towards visual entertainment such as movies, tv or even social media, can be a beneficial exercise towards conscientiously choosing the kind of content we surround ourselves with in the first place, including in the STEM fields.

-W