NASA astronaut Kate Rubins returns safely to Earth after six months in space
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NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is helped out of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft

BY TORI B. POWELL,

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, 42, safely returned to Earth on Saturday after living aboard the International Space Station for six months, according to NASA. Rubins, along with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov, arrived southeast of the town Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, in a parachute landing at 10:55 a.m. local time.

The crew served as Expedition 63-64 and began their mission on October 14 last year.

Rubins became the first person to ever sequence DNA in outer space on her first spaceflight, Expedition 48/49 in 2016. During her latest 185-day mission, Rubins conducted “hundreds of hours” of International Space Station research, including work on the Cardinal Heart experiment which studies the effects of gravity and cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue levels and could further knowledge of heart problems on Earth, NASA reported. Her research also included studying DNA sequencing and microbiology studies.

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

WITI Summit, June 22-24, VIRTUAL
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The WITI logo

The WITI Summit, June 22-24 in a VIRTUAL form, is the premier global event for women in technology. Executives, entrepreneurs and technology thought leaders from around the world convene online to build and expand strong connections in a welcoming environment and to foster women’s success in all technology related fields and organizations. 3,000+ attendees from 6 continents. 

 

Use code CBPART21 for $100 discount off the prevailing cost of a full 3-day pass. 

 

Click Here 

Fermilab Experiment Hints at New Fundamental Force of Nature
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nad over head photo of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois

By Ryan Whitwam

Scientists working at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois have made some of the most important discoveries in physics over the years, including the existence of the top quark and characterizing the neutrino. Now, the team working on Fermilab’s Muon g−2 experiment has reported a tantalizing hint of a new type of physics, according to the BBC. If confirmed, this would become the fifth known fundamental force in the universe.

Our current understanding of particle physics is called the Standard Model, which we know is an incomplete picture of the universe. Concepts like the Higgs boson and dark energy don’t fully integrate with the Standard Model, and the Muon g−2 might eventually help us understand why. The key to that breakthrough could be the behavior of the muon, a subatomic particle similar to an electron. The muon has a negative charge, but it’s much more massive. So, it spins like a magnet, which is what points to a possible new branch of physics.

PHOTO: ExtremeTech

The roots of the Muon g−2 experiment go back to work done at CERN in the late 1950s. However, the instruments available at the time were too imprecise to accurately measure the “g-factor” of the muon, which describes its rate of gyration. The Standard Model predicts that muons wobble in a certain way, but the 14-meter magnetic accelerator at the heart of Muon g−2 shows that muons have a different g-factor. That might not sound significant, but even a tiny “anomalous magnetic dipole moment,” as scientists call it, could indicate something mysterious has affected the particles.

We currently know of four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force (nuclear cohesion), and the weak force (radioactive decay). Whatever is causing muons to misbehave in Muon g−2 could be a fifth force, but we don’t know what it is. Even if the team can confirm the result, we won’t necessarily know what this new force of nature does aside from perturbing muons. That part will take much more work. Theoretical physicists have speculated that the new force could be associated with an undiscovered subatomic particle like the Z-prime boson or leptoquark.

Read the full article at ExtremeTech.

Will.i.am reveals his $299 face mask featuring dual fans, ANC headphones, Bluetooth, and more
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Will.i.am wearing the technology powered face mask with a blue beanie on

By Rob Thubron, TechSpot

What just happened? Will.i.am, best known as the frontman for the Black Eyed Peas, has made several pushes into the world of technology—not all of them successful. But the rapper hasn’t been put off by a few past failures. His latest project is a tech-packed face mask that features everything from noise-canceling headphones to Bluetooth connectivity. It’s also a lot more expensive than most masks: $299.
Created through a partnership with Honeywell, the Xupermask (pronounced “Super mask”) features dual three-speed fans and HEPA filters. That’s the same setup found on LG’s equally Cyberpunk 2077-looking PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier mask.

As Will.i.am was involved in the Xupermask’s creation, it has built-in active noise-canceling headphones for enjoying your tunes while looking like a Fallout character. There’s also a microphone, Bluetooth 5.0, and a magnetic earbud docking system.

Taking a leaf from Razer’s Project Hazel, the Xupermask boasts LED day glow lights, though they’re not of the RGB variety, as is the case with the PC accessory maker’s product. You also get 7-hour battery life.

Click here to read the full article on TechSpot.

Partnership Aims to Engage 1 Million Girls in STEM Opportunities
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young girl looking through microscope in science class

The Intel Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation have joined STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to launch the Million Girls Moonshot.

The effort is designed to engage one million school-age girls in the U.S. in STEM learning opportunities over the next five years. The organizations will provide grant funding and in-kind resources to Mott-funded afterschool networks in all 50 states to increase access to hands-on, immersive STEM learning experiences.

“The Million Girls Moonshot will help girls from diverse backgrounds develop this same engineering mindset, and I’m thrilled at the way it continues the legacy of Intel’s founders and their passion for advancing STEM,” said Dr. Penny Noyce, founding board chair, STEM Next Opportunity Fund.

Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation, added, “We’re delighted that the Intel and Moore Foundations will join us in an effort to promote gender equity by empowering girls through STEM learning opportunities.”

Just as the original moonshot united the nation behind a common goal and dramatically advanced scientific achievement, the Million Girls Moonshot aims to create a national movement to change the trajectory of women and girls in STEM. Led by STEM Next Opportunity Fund, the program will tap a wide range of funding and programmatic partners, including NASA, Qualcomm Incorporated, Technovation, National Girls Collaborative Project, CSforALL, JFF, Techbridge Girls, STEMconnector and Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

“Every girl deserves access to high-quality education to achieve their dream career, regardless of their ZIP code or family’s socioeconomic status,” said Gabriela A. Gonzalez, deputy director, Intel Foundation. “The powerful synergies from collaborating with other organizations who share these values achieve a larger collective social impact to advance gender equity and parity in STEM fields, and more important, elevate girls’ future prospects for a better quality of life.”

Closing the Gender Gap in STEM is Critical for Our Nation’s Future

Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, comprising just 16 percent of engineers. Black and Latina women have even less representation, at approximately two percent each. With economic projections pointing to a need for one million more STEM professionals than the country will produce at its current rate over the next decade, engaging and keeping more girls in STEM pursuits will be critically important for solving our nation’s most pressing challenges.

“We’re happy to be inaugural partners in the Million Girls Moonshot and its all-hands-on-deck effort to break down the systemic barriers that exist for girls in STEM,” said Janet Coffey, Ph.D., program director, Science, for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “This generation of young people will be the COVID-19 generation. By fostering an engineering mindset and a spirit of scientific exploration, curiosity, and discovery, we can empower them to build a better world.”

Afterschool Programs are Important for Engaging, Keeping Girls in STEM

Over the past several decades, afterschool and out-of-school programs have developed expertise in providing the kind of immersive, hands-on learning experiences that are critical to helping students gain fluency in STEM subjects. This school year, the opportunity is even greater as students and families face many more hours outside of the traditional classroom. From running STEM activities virtually and distributing STEM kits to students, to offering small-group, in-person services on remote school days and during traditional afterschool hours, afterschool programs have stepped up to keep students engaged and learning. The potential for impact is enormous: The nation’s 100,000 afterschool programs serve more than 10 million young people.

To support programs as they pivot to meet students’ needs, the Million Girls Moonshot will provide afterschool networks with technical assistance, educational resources, access to Intel’s She Will Connect partners and mentorship from STEM experts, including Intel employee volunteers. The initiative leverages more than $300 million in investments made by the Mott Foundation in the past two decades to advance afterschool programs and systems, including the development of afterschool networks in all 50 states, as well as Mizzen by Mott, an app that provides afterschool educators free access to high-quality content.

The Million Girls Moonshot welcomes a diverse group of cross-sector partners to join in expanding its reach, sustainability and impact. Learn more at MillionGirlsMoonshot.org.

Source: STEM Next Opportunity Fund

Women Of Color Lead Gender Equality In STEM Education
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Dr. Karidia Diallo in a laboratory setting at the CDC, in front of an ABI DNA Analyzer

By Rhett Power, Forbes

The numbers are encouraging but there is more work to do.

Latina women have closed the gender gap in technical college-entrance exams, and African American women outnumber men 3-to-2 in those exams. After decades of research showcasing women of color behind both men of color and White women, new UC Berkeley research highlights encouraging data in which women of color are making progress in STEM education.

The UC Berkeley analysis showcased these two groundbreaking trends utilizing Advanced-Placement (AP) college-entrance exams in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Among African American students, AP STEM exams taken by women represented the overwhelming majority over men. Among Latinx students, the number of men and women was roughly equal; nationally, women took 66,382exams and, men took 66,703 exams per year.

The research, conducted by Nobel-prize-winning author Dr. Daniel Kammen, Dr. Caroline Harper, and researcher Vanessa Thompson, presents patterns that are surprising given that women of color have continued to be alarmingly underrepresented in many STEM fields. Both of these trends of gender equality showcase strengths among African American and Latinx AP students that could translate to insights for increased gender equity in other STEM contexts.

I sat down with Dr. Caroline Harper and Vanessa Thompson recently to discuss their work and findings. Watch full interview here.

Rhett Power: Can you tell us about some of the exciting results from your research, some of the highlights you think are important?

Vanessa Thompson: “We’ve found that Latina women have closed the gender gap in technical college entrance exams, and African American women outnumber African American men three to two in those same exams.

“It’s really interesting because when we look into the pipeline, it can indicate some larger trends later down the road. After decades of research showing women of color behind, this shows a context that counters the traditional narrative, which is interesting. The reason that we look at research like this is that increased women and minorities in STEM is correlated with having more revenue and productivity in the workplace, so it’s important to understand what the numbers are telling us.”

Power: Dr. Harper, I want to ask you. You’ve done a lot of work on racial and gender equity. Why is diversity in STEM crucial, and what makes you encouraged by this report and by this research?

Dr. Caroline Harper: “Thank you, It’s all about perspectives and experiences, and how we see problems, and how we look to solving those problems or coming up with solutions that last sustainably across all communities. If we talk about diversity, we’re really talking about finding ways to really reach a new consensus but also finding new ways to actually deal with real problems, like as we see right now, the things that are happening in Texas, the recent freeze that happened. Issues like climate change are impacting communities of color, and those same people can provide solutions. Or if with talk about the pandemic. It’s a woman of color who leads the research on the vaccination, so we’re talking about finding ways to address new challenges, and that’s why diversity matters. Women of color can help find solutions to our biggest problems and bring different experiences and perspectives to that work.”

Power: I understand that advanced placement courses (AP) in high school have become more broadly available in the country? Is that why we see this increase, or is it because there’s more of a focus on it? Are we counseling kids better these days? What do you attribute to this increase of women of color in STEM fields?

Thompson: “The answer is it’s both demand and supply when it comes to, particularly, AP. AP’s been working to make their tests more inclusive and offer them at more high schools, so we see an increased supply and increased ability to take AP exams. We also see higher demand as universities increasingly want to see AP exams on an entrance appilications.”

Power: Is there a correlation between your AP courses’ grades versus what you major in in college and what you choose career-wise?

Thompson: “Yeah, so the confidence related to a higher score in the AP exam increases your chances that you’ll major in that subject up to five percent, so that becomes interesting, especially with some of the more common majors like biology and computer science. If you get a higher score in those, you’re much more likely to pursue them later in life.”

Power: Dr. Harper, when you get to college, and you have that STEM AP background, what are the colleges doing differently nowadays than maybe they were before? Are we better at getting young people through college and helping place people in jobs?

Dr. Harper: “For students, particularly students of color, to feel successful and comfortable in those spaces, it helps to have faces that look like them, that teach to their learning styles, that teach in ways in which resonate on how they form solutions, so it’s representation in the classroom that matters. The other piece that we are doing is making sure the students are prepared and have the opportunity to develop relationships so that not only are they doing their classwork, but they’re also finding fellowships, internships with large scale employers, major industries that really give them the space to translate what they learned in the classroom into the workforce.”

Power: Dr. Harper, How does this research counter the traditional narrative of women of color in STEM?

Dr. Harper: “Great question; the reason is that people don’t talk about it very much. We’ve always assumed that women of color weren’t interested in STEM or didn’t have the aptitude when that’s not true. The talent is there. We know for a fact that girls generally show a stronger aptitude for STEM fields in middle school, much more than boys. Then of course, social things happen where they become uncomfortable or feel like an outlier, and nobody wants to be that person, so they pursue something different.”

“By the time you get to AP, though, what we find is that the more increase in access because AP hasn’t been traditionally available in schools of color so this push for the research and advocacy to get more of those tests available to prepare students has also helped this conversation.”

As you talk about this narrative, you now are seeing this be changed because those AP test scores substantiate it, but you know, the idea of women being interested in it, we see on the big screen, with Hidden Figures, and this helps the momentum for tech and STEM.”

“I’m hoping to see that there is an increase in confidence of black women in particular, that we are talking about, the reality is that from 1995 to 2004, 46% of black women who pursued STEM degrees came from HBCUs. So I hope that this research will give some credence to the kind of work you are doing to get to the stage where they can compete. Still, I hope that this proves that these people are very well qualified, with unbelievable experiences, and capable of doing the work. I’m hoping to see more doors open in corporate America.”

Power: With the decline of young men going to college, it seems to me that in five or ten years, there are going to be more women in the workplace. It’s going to force some of this change, and some of the systemic change, culture change, in organizations, it’s going to kind of force it, isn’t it?

Thompson: “I think that one of the challenges that we see going forward, though, is who’s going to be hired and promoted? We see many women at the bottom of organizations, which is true with almost every STEM profession and profession in general. In test, women are outscoring men in math, science, and technology in general. Still, when we go to high-performing spaces like advanced placement or STS, a big science competition that’s very competitive, the number of women drops significantly. Then when we choose the finalists for STS, the number of women drops even further.”

“I think that there needs to be a societal culture change. Even though we’re seeing more women go to college, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to see more women CEOs, so I think there needs to be a lot of work done to help women and women of color to get into the C-suite.”

Power: You’ve spent a lot of time on this research. What are you encouraged by, and what worries you the most? And bring out your crystal ball and say, “This is what I think we’re going to see in a few years from this.”

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

NASA’s Europa Clipper Builds Hardware, Moves Toward Assembly
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Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined, Jupiter’s moon Europa carries the potential for conditions suitable for life. But the frigid temperatures and the nonstop pummeling of the surface from Jupiter’s radiation make it a tricky target to explore: Mission engineers and scientists must design a spacecraft hardy enough to withstand the radiation yet sensitive enough to gather the science needed to investigate Europa’s environment. The Europa Clipper orbiter will swoop around Jupiter on an elliptical path, dipping close to the moon on each flyby to conduct detailed reconnaissance. The science includes gathering measurements of the internal ocean, mapping the surface composition and its geology, and hunting for plumes of water vapor that may be venting from the icy crust. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory test an engineering model of a high-frequency (HF) radar antenna Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory test an engineering model of a high-frequency (HF) radar antenna that makes up part of NASA's Europa Clipper radar instrument on Dec. 17, 2019. The 59-foot-long (18-meter-long) antenna is held straight by a cross bar on the tower at right. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech Development of the spacecraft is progressing well, based on the intense examination NASA recently completed. The Critical Design Review conducted a deep dive into the specifics of the plans for all of the science instruments – from cameras to antennas – and flight subsystems, including propulsion,

Jupiter’s moon Europa may have the potential to harbor life. The spacecraft will use multiple flybys of the moon to investigate the habitability of this ocean world.

Europa Clipper, NASA’s upcoming flagship mission to the outer solar system, has passed a significant milestone, completing its Critical Design Review. During the review, experts examined the detailed design of the spacecraft to ensure that it is ready to complete construction. The mission is now able to complete hardware fabrication and testing, and move toward the assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its payload of sophisticated science instruments.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined, Jupiter’s moon Europa carries the potential for conditions suitable for life. But the frigid temperatures and the nonstop pummeling of the surface from Jupiter’s radiation make it a tricky target to explore: Mission engineers and scientists must design a spacecraft hardy enough to withstand the radiation yet sensitive enough to gather the science needed to investigate Europa’s environment.

The Europa Clipper orbiter will swoop around Jupiter on an elliptical path, dipping close to the moon on each flyby to conduct detailed reconnaissance. The science includes gathering measurements of the internal ocean, mapping the surface composition and its geology, and hunting for plumes of water vapor that may be venting from the icy crust.
Development of the spacecraft is progressing well, based on the intense examination NASA recently completed. The Critical Design Review conducted a deep dive into the specifics of the plans for all of the science instruments – from cameras to antennas – and flight subsystems, including propulsion, power, avionics, and the flight computer.

“We showed that our project system design is strong,” said Europa Clipper Project Manager Jan Chodas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Our plans for completing the development and integration of the individual pieces hold together, and the system as a whole will function as designed to gather the science measurements we need to explore the potential habitability of Europa.”
Development of the spacecraft is progressing well, based on the intense examination NASA recently completed. The Critical Design Review conducted a deep dive into the specifics of the plans for all of the science instruments – from cameras to antennas – and flight subsystems, including propulsion, power, avionics, and the flight computer.

“We showed that our project system design is strong,” said Europa Clipper Project Manager Jan Chodas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Our plans for completing the development and integration of the individual pieces hold together, and the system as a whole will function as designed to gather the science measurements we need to explore the potential habitability of Europa.”

Read the full article at NASA.

This Awesome STEM Toy Teaches Coding for Kids Without Using Screens
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Student playing on the floor with the Mochi Adventure game

by FUTURISM CREATIVE

Learn With Mochi gives kids the basics of computer programming in a playful, hands-on way.

Everyone wants the best education possible for their kids. But it’s hard to find enriching activities that don’t involve setting them in front of yet another screen. And teaching them the fundamentals of STEM seems nearly impossible when you’re limiting screen time. And according to data from Engineering For Kids, STEM workers earn 26-percent more than people without a STEM background. So if you want to give your young children a competitive edge without adding more screen time, you need to know about Learn With Mochi, an award-winning screen-free game that teaches coding for kids ages three-to-nine.

With Learn With Mochi, kids learn the basics of computer programming in a playful, hands-on way as they explore STEM subjects without the use of addictive screen time. That’s because Mochi is your child’s first screenless computer. It takes computer-programming commands, executes functions, and gives audio feedback in a low-pressure, fun way.

Every Mochi Aventure Kit includes these basic components: the Mochi Computer (where kids place the coding commands or blocks), coding blocks, Mochi Bear (a stuffed animal), Lego-compatible Rover, and the play mat (the environment that Mochi is exploring). Together these parts allow your child to absorb the fundamentals of coding without exposing them to more screen time than necessary.

Mochi has three Adventure Packs to choose from. The starter pack, Mochi Basic 1 Book Adventure Pack, covers everything your child will need to grasp the fundamentals of STEM education. This includes Mochi bear, Lego-compatible Rover, Programming board with 12 coding blocks, and Mochi’s Planets Story set (includes story map). Plus, every Mochi kit comes with a SD card that provides unique songs, music, and even audio of the Mochi books.

However, if you’re little one needs a more in-depth kit to help further their STEM education, try the Mochi Starter 4 Book Adventure Pack. The 4 Book Adventure Pack has everything the 1 Book Adventure Pack does, but also incorporates Mochi’s 4 Story Adventure Sets (Planets, Animals, Earth and Biology). This 4-book instructional pack will guide your children on adventures in a variety of STEM subjects, not only educating them, but also stimulating their natural curiosity.

Click here to read the full article on Futurism.

This is how the human heart adapts to space
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Two men are standing looking at each other in front of what appears to be a map.

By Ashley Strickland

When astronaut Scott Kelly spent nearly a year in space, his heart shrank despite the fact that he worked out six days a week over his 340-day stay, according to a new study.

Surprisingly, researchers observed the same change in Benoît Lecomte after he completed his 159-day swim across the Pacific Ocean in 2018.
The findings suggest that long-term weightlessness alters the structure of the heart, causing shrinkage and atrophy, and low-intensity exercise is not enough to keep that from happening. The study published Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
Photo : CNN
The gravity we experience on Earth is what helps the heart to maintain both its size and function as it keeps blood pumping through our veins. Even something as simple as standing up and walking around helps pull blood down into our legs.
When the element of gravity is replaced with weightlessness, the heart shrinks in response.
Kelly lived in the absence of gravity aboard the International Space Station from March 27, 2015, to March 1, 2016. He worked out on a stationary bike and treadmill and incorporated resistance activities into his routine six days a week for two hours each day.
Lecomte swam from June 5 to November 11, 2018, covering 1,753 miles and averaging about six hours a day swimming. That sustained activity may sound extreme, but each day of swimming was considered to be low-intensity activity.
Even though Lecomte was on Earth, he was spending hours a day in the water, which offsets the effects of gravity. Long-distance swimmers use the prone technique, a horizontal facedown position, for these endurance swims.
Researchers expected that the activities performed by both men would keep their hearts from experiencing any shrinkage or weakening. Data collected from tests of their hearts before, during and after these extreme events showed otherwise.
Kelly and Lecomte both experienced a loss of mass and initial drop in diameter in the left ventricles of the heart during their experiences.
Both long-duration spaceflight and prolonged water immersion led to a very specific adaptation of the heart, said senior study author Dr. Benjamin Levine, a professor of internal medicine/cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
While the authors point out that they only studied two men who both performed extraordinary things, further study is needed to understand how the human body reacts in extreme situations.
Read the full article at CNN.
Why Jane Goodall is hopeful in 2021
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A Chimpanzee hanging from a tree branch

By Laurie Wiegler, BBC

In the 1960s, Dr Jane Goodall upended the world’s understanding of chimpanzees by revealing that they are capable of making and using tools and engaging in complex social behaviours like kissing and tickling. Six decades later, the world-renowned primatologist, activist, author and humanitarian is not only still working, but reinventing herself with a new podcast called Hopecast, which offers reasons to be hopeful about the environment, wildlife and people in 2021.

We recently spoke with Goodall via Zoom from her childhood home in Bournemouth, UK, where she has been living with her younger sister and her sister’s family during the pandemic. During our talk, the British Dame and UN Messenger of Peace discussed the best days of her life, how storytelling is the best way to reach people’s hearts, and how each of us can help look after this wondrous world we all share.

Q: After all these years of studying primates, you broadened your focus to include humans. In doing so, you launched Hopecast, highlighting how we all can contribute to a more compassionate world. What inspired this?

The best days of my life were when I was out in Gombe, [Tanzania], with the chimps in nature, in the rainforest. And it was when I realised that right across Africa, forests were disappearing, chimpanzee numbers were dropping, [and] I had to try and do something to help. When I went to Africa to visit different chimp sites, I learned a lot about the problems for the wildlife but also about the problems faced by people and the crippling poverty, the lack of health and education.

And when I flew over the little tiny Gombe National Park in 1960, it was part of this great forest that stretched right across Africa. By 1990, it was a tiny little island of forests with more people than the land can support, who buy food from elsewhere and who are struggling to survive. And that was when I thought, “If we don’t do something to help the people find an alternative way of living without destroying the environment, then we can’t save chimps, forests or anything else.” So we began the Tacare programme.

In the villages that were around Gombe, [the programme] has improved lives, provided microcredit for women and scholarships to keep girls in school and ways of restoring fertility to the land without chemicals. Tacare is now throughout the chimp range in Tanzania at four villages and in six other African countries, and the people have learned to use smartphones to monitor their own environment. They’ve realised that saving the forests is for their own future, not just the chimpanzees’.

[I began] raising money for all of this [because] I wanted to raise awareness about Africa’s problems. So I was travelling further and further around the world and learning more about what we’re doing to harm this beautiful planet, and meeting young people who seemed to have lost hope. [They] told me that they’d given up because we’d compromised their future [and] there was nothing they could do about it.

Q: Did you sense that there was not enough hope or that young people, and people in general, needed hope?

People do need hope, because if you don’t have hope then you become apathetic. I mean, why would you bother to do anything to help the environment, people or animals if you didn’t think it was going to work? You need to hope that what you do is going to make a difference. Without hope, then you fall into apathy and do nothing.

Q: What are a few ideas or developments inspiring your sense of hope now, and what can each of us do to make the world healthier for people, animals and the environment?

We can think about the little choices we make each day. What did we buy? Where did it come from? And, could you buy it from somewhere nearer that uses less air miles? Was [its manufacture] cruel to animals? Is it cheap because of child slave labour? If everybody feels they’ve made ethical choices, then we move towards a better world.

Q: You have travelled extensively. What has surprised you or challenged you on your journeys?

First of all, growing up in the UK was during World War Two, and so I learned a lot about taking nothing for granted. Food was rationed; clothes were rationed; people we knew were dying, were killed. The stories of the Holocaust came out, and it was shocking to me that people could treat other people that way. After the war, my wise mother let me go out to a German family who wanted an English person to teach their children good English, and the reason she let me go was because she wanted me to understand that the Nazis and Germans were not the same; that all Germans were not Nazis. Because in the war, the sound of a German voice sent shivers down your spine.

When I first went to Africa, there were no planes flying back and forth. There were a few, but they were very expensive. And the first place [where] I touched land in Africa was Cape Town, which is really beautiful and very exciting. But then I saw the backs of the seats and the doors to the hotels said “Slegs blankes”. I said to the two friends who were looking after me, “What do these words mean? “[They said], ‘It means white people only’.”. I didn’t grow up that way – my father was a congregational minister and we didn’t judge people by the colour of their skin, their culture or their religion. I couldn’t wait to leave South Africa.

You may also be interested in:
• Can Hanli Prinsloo help South Africa reclaim its oceans?
• Isabel Allende on travel, culture and what inspires her
• Signs of life and death in Africa

When I got to Kenya, where my friend was who’d invited me, it was much better. They were just on the brink of independence from British rule, and soon after I arrived in Tanzania, that country became independent too. But of course, the cultures are very different. I sort of grew up being told about different cultures – my great-great-grandfather had travelled all over the world and was very adventurous. So, [going to Africa] added to the knowledge that I had as a child, from reading and from stories.

Q: You are not only a scientist but an activist. Have you ever felt conflicted by the two hats you wear, or do they somehow complement each other?

I started off as a naturalist. I was only forced to become a scientist by [British paleoanthropologist] Dr Leakey, who told me he wasn’t always going to be around to get money for me for studying the chimps and I needed a degree and I had to get a PhD at Cambridge University. It was a very nerve-racking experience because I had never been to college and I was doing a PhD.

I did get the PhD and I was told I’d done everything wrong: I shouldn’t have given the chimps names; they should have had numbers; I couldn’t talk about personality, mind or emotions [as] those were unique to us. But I’d already been taught by my dog that that wasn’t true. So I just persevered, I got the degree, and gradually science changed. And now we know we’re not the only beings with personality, mind and emotion.

After I left Gombe, I began travelling around and learning about the needs of the people and learning about the way animals were treated in Europe, in America, in medical research labs, the cruel training of circus animals. I decided I needed to become an advocate. And it’s never conflicted at all. I’ve never had any conflict between what I am doing now (we still have a research team at Gombe) and our method of research.

You know, the heart is involved, and empathy with the animal subjects is involved. So it’s not what some people would call “hard science”. It’s not all about facts and figures, although they have their place. When science says you have to be coldly objective [and] you can’t have empathy, they’re completely wrong. So I was able to stick up for what I believed, and if you have empathy with your subject you are more likely to understand complex behaviour.

Click here to read the full article on BBC.

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Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  3. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  4. HACU’s 35th Annual Conference
    October 30, 2021 - November 1, 2021
  5. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  3. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  4. HACU’s 35th Annual Conference
    October 30, 2021 - November 1, 2021
  5. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022