THE BEST WOMAN FOR THE JOB

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - News - an­thony@ram­say­media.co.za an­tho

Ire­alise I am tread­ing on dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory here. But, af­ter all, tak­ing risks is what Pop­u­lar Me­chan­ics peo­ple do. The sub­ject of women in tech­nol­ogy shouldn’t be an is­sue in 2016. That it still is says some­thing about per­cep­tions of our roles in so­ci­ety. You know, the idea that some of us get our hands dirty and some of us are seen as dec­o­ra­tion. Kind of like for­wards and backs in a rugby team.

Al­though "Tech­nol­ogy’s Se­cret Weapon is Women" (page 43) fo­cuses on Sil­i­con Val­ley, its in­sights are pretty uni­ver­sal. It’s a fact that women have been sub­tly – some­times overtly – en­cour­aged to seek other, os­ten­si­bly more ap­pro­pri­ate roles than those tra­di­tion­ally des­ig­nated for men. To over­come the glass ceil­ing, we note, you have to break things, think dif­fer­ent, change the out­look. Dis­rupt. ( Dis­claimer: I’m not talk­ing about our over­all roles in so­ci­ety, which is a de­bate for an­other day. And for a braver man than I.)

Speak­ing of risk-tak­ing, the sub­ject of our cover story is the quin­tes­sen­tial Big Dream: the fly­ing car. We’ve been writ­ing about this most en­dur­ing topic for, well, more or less as long as Pop­u­lar Me­chan­ics has been around – since 1906. Ready for take-off? Go to page 32.

More down to Earth, the an­nual Sci­ence Lens com­pe­ti­tion en­cour­ages sci­en­tists to share their world with us through the medium of pho­tog­ra­phy. Whether it’s an iri­des­cent vista, cap­tured at mi­cro­scopic level, or glow­ing pin­pricks and swirls in a night sky cel­e­brat­ing the In­ter­na­tional Year of Light, these strik­ing pictures give us a glimpse into an eerily beau­ti­ful, yet of­ten un­fa­mil­iar, world. We took this op­por­tu­nity to speak to the pho­tog­ra­phers them­selves, to get a feel for what in­spired them.

The im­age I was par­tic­u­larly drawn to was of the view through glass of the three sci­en­tists mak­ing notes on the glass it­self, in the cat­e­gory Sci­ence in Ac­tion. Like out­siders, voyeurs even, we study an alien civil­i­sa­tion at work, yet at the same time it feels like we are par­tic­i­pants in their world. By the way, the four cat­e­gory win­ners are all women. To un­der­line the fact that sci­ence re­search in South Africa is alive and well, we fea­ture some of this coun­try’s ground­break­ing work in the area of lasers. It’s worth re­mind­ing our­selves that this coun­try is a pi­o­neer in laser re­search and ap­pli­ca­tions.

So much for what our sci­en­tific thinkers of to­day are work­ing on. Im­por­tantly, this month also sees our ini­tial fo­cus on the world of younger Pop­u­lar Me­chan­ics read­ers and those who shape their think­ing. We’re not quite sure where this is headed yet, but we know this: our fu­ture is based to a large ex­tent on how we cul­ti­vate our coun­try’s in­ven­tive and in­no­va­tive young minds.

Fi­nally, as I write this, I’m tak­ing a break from work to un­der­take a par­tic­u­larly pleas­ing kind of ad­ven­ture: the kind in­volv­ing fam­ily, friends, a boat and a marathon through one of the world’s great cities. Okay, per­haps not the marathon so much.

▲ Ed­i­tor Do­man flies the flag for SA at the wheel of a canal cruiser in the French Al­sace re­gion.

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