Posts tagged science

Meet the First Woman to Win Math’s Most Prestigious Prize

BY ERICA KLARREICH, QUANTA MAGAZINE 

Mirzakhani is the first woman to win a Fields Medal. The gender imbalance in mathematics is long-standing and pervasive, and the Fields Medal, in particular, is ill-suited to the career arcs of many female mathematicians. It is restricted to mathematicians younger than 40, focusing on the very years during which many women dial back their careers to raise children.

Mirzakhani feels certain, however, that there will be many more female Fields medalists in the future. “There are really many great female mathematicians doing great things,” she said.

Maryam Mirzakhani’s monumental work draws deep connections between topology, geometry and dynamical systems.

Women in Physics in the Palestinian Territories
Scenes from the life of women physicists in Palestine.
This is a study in observation, and looks at the multifaceted nature of the lives of women scientists in Palestine. Thoughts on academic opportunity and on career are presented alongside those relating to society, family and the realities of living under occupation.
In the Palestinian Territories, more women than men study physics, yet women faculty members remain a very small minority. At Birzeit University, outside Ramallah in the West Bank, Chair of the Physics Department Dr Wafaa Khater offers a unique example of success to her postgraduate students. The demands of social norms, of gender bias across the international scientific community, in addition to the challenges of pursuing science in the developing world and under occupation render a career in physics a difficult undertaking. Yet despite these obstacles, and in an ever changing landscape, more and more women are choosing to embark on a career in physics.
(-Photo-essay by Kate Shaw, ICTP, Trieste, Italy and Jack Owen, Freelance Photographer, London, England)

Women in Physics in the Palestinian Territories

Scenes from the life of women physicists in Palestine.

This is a study in observation, and looks at the multifaceted nature of the lives of women scientists in Palestine. Thoughts on academic opportunity and on career are presented alongside those relating to society, family and the realities of living under occupation.

In the Palestinian Territories, more women than men study physics, yet women faculty members remain a very small minority. At Birzeit University, outside Ramallah in the West Bank, Chair of the Physics Department Dr Wafaa Khater offers a unique example of success to her postgraduate students. The demands of social norms, of gender bias across the international scientific community, in addition to the challenges of pursuing science in the developing world and under occupation render a career in physics a difficult undertaking. Yet despite these obstacles, and in an ever changing landscape, more and more women are choosing to embark on a career in physics.

(-Photo-essay by Kate Shaw, ICTP, Trieste, Italy and Jack Owen, Freelance Photographer, London, England)

Genes can reveal where we come from
Researchers have produced a biogeographical algorithm that uses genetic information to reliably infer a person’s country of origin. The international team of researchers, led by Eran Elhaik of the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, and including Pierre Zalloua from the Lebanese American University, Beirut, tested the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) algorithm on a sample of more than 1,650 individuals who had been previously genotyped.
The algorithm, which is presented in Nature Communications, accurately placed 83% of individuals within their country of origin, with some individuals pinpointed down to their cities.
(Image Credit: Small coloured circles with a matching colour to geographical regions represent the 54 reference points used for GPS predictions. © Eran Elhaik et al/ Nature Communications)

Genes can reveal where we come from

Researchers have produced a biogeographical algorithm that uses genetic information to reliably infer a person’s country of origin. The international team of researchers, led by Eran Elhaik of the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, and including Pierre Zalloua from the Lebanese American University, Beirut, tested the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) algorithm on a sample of more than 1,650 individuals who had been previously genotyped.

The algorithm, which is presented in Nature Communications, accurately placed 83% of individuals within their country of origin, with some individuals pinpointed down to their cities.

(Image Credit: Small coloured circles with a matching colour to geographical regions represent the 54 reference points used for GPS predictions. © Eran Elhaik et al/ Nature Communications)

The Arabs’ scientific vision

Winds of change blow through research centres and universities operating in the Middle East.

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(Image Credit: Northwestern University in Qatar Photo Gallery)

The Canon of Medicine by Ibn Sina (Avicenna in Latin), the studies on algebra and arithmetic of Al-Khwārizmī (Algoritmi), the Book of Optics by Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen): these are just a few examples of Middle Eastern literature from the past that testify the outstanding contribution of Islamic intellect to modern science. However, statistics on the scientific impact of today’s Arab world portray a starkly different picture, with universities and research centres from these countries lagging well behind their Eastern Asiatic and Western counterparts1, 2. The output of publications from the entire Middle Eastern region in 2012 amounts to less than one quarter of that of the US1, and only three universities (two from Israel and one from Turkey) are listed in the top 200 institutions in teaching and research worldwide. Yet, an awakened community is now eager to trigger a scientific rebirth in this area.

The creation of scientific hubs able to both play a relevant role in the international community and involve an increasing number of Arab students in research may catalyse the change needed in the Middle East. Certainly, it will be interesting to observe the effects of these efforts on the scientific productivity of the next few years. In the long term, one only hopes that the exposure of young generations to a multicultural, curiosity-driven research environment will spark a new scientific golden age in the region.

A reef complex in Iraqi waters discovered for the first time
Until now, it has been well-established that coral complex in the Arabian/Persian Gulf only exist in the coastal regions of Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates and it was thought that there are no coral reefs in Iraq. However, here for the first time we show the existence of a living 28 km2 large coral reef in this country. These corals are adapted to one of the most extreme coral-bearing environments on earth: the seawater temperature in this area ranges between 14 and 34°C. The discovery of the unique coral reef oasis in the turbid coastal waters of Iraq will stimulate the interest of governmental agencies, environmental organizations, as well as of the international scientific community working on the fundamental understanding of coral marine ecosystems and global climate today.
Thomas Pohl, Sameh W. Al-Muqdadi, Malik H. Ali, Nadia Al-Mudaffar Fawzi, Hermann Ehrlich & Broder Merkel

A reef complex in Iraqi waters discovered for the first time

Until now, it has been well-established that coral complex in the Arabian/Persian Gulf only exist in the coastal regions of Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates and it was thought that there are no coral reefs in Iraq. However, here for the first time we show the existence of a living 28 km2 large coral reef in this country. These corals are adapted to one of the most extreme coral-bearing environments on earth: the seawater temperature in this area ranges between 14 and 34°C. The discovery of the unique coral reef oasis in the turbid coastal waters of Iraq will stimulate the interest of governmental agencies, environmental organizations, as well as of the international scientific community working on the fundamental understanding of coral marine ecosystems and global climate today.

Thomas Pohl, Sameh W. Al-Muqdadi, Malik H. Ali, Nadia Al-Mudaffar Fawzi, Hermann Ehrlich & Broder Merkel

Sharing the pain: Improving healthcare in warzones
Researchers suggest a regional approach to the problem of national healthcare systems strained by conflict in the Middle East.

Sharing the pain: Improving healthcare in warzones

Researchers suggest a regional approach to the problem of national healthcare systems strained by conflict in the Middle East.

THE SURGE 
IN 1988 THERE WERE 350,000 CASES OF POLIO WORLDWIDE. LAST YEAR THERE WERE 223. BUT GETTING ALL THE WAY TO ZERO WILL MEAN SPENDING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, PENETRATING THE MOST REMOTE REGIONS OF THE GLOBE, AND FACING DOWN TALIBAN MILITANTS TO GET TO THE LAST UNPROTECTED CHILDREN ON EARTH.

THE SURGE

IN 1988 THERE WERE 350,000 CASES OF POLIO WORLDWIDE. LAST YEAR THERE WERE 223. BUT GETTING ALL THE WAY TO ZERO WILL MEAN SPENDING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, PENETRATING THE MOST REMOTE REGIONS OF THE GLOBE, AND FACING DOWN TALIBAN MILITANTS TO GET TO THE LAST UNPROTECTED CHILDREN ON EARTH.

Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr 
In this sweeping and richly illustrated history, S. Frederick Starr tells the fascinating but largely unknown story of Central Asia’s medieval enlightenment through the eventful lives and astonishing accomplishments of its greatest minds—remarkable figures who built a bridge to the modern world. Because nearly all of these figures wrote in Arabic, they were long assumed to have been Arabs. In fact, they were from Central Asia—drawn from the Persianate and Turkic peoples of a region that today extends from Kazakhstan southward through Afghanistan, and from the easternmost province of Iran through Xinjiang, China.
Lost Enlightenment recounts how, between the years 800 and 1200, Central Asia led the world in trade and economic development, the size and sophistication of its cities, the refinement of its arts, and, above all, in the advancement of knowledge in many fields. Central Asians achieved signal breakthroughs in astronomy, mathematics, geology, medicine, chemistry, music, social science, philosophy, and theology, among other subjects. They gave algebra its name, calculated the earth’s diameter with unprecedented precision, wrote the books that later defined European medicine, and penned some of the world’s greatest poetry. One scholar, working in Afghanistan, even predicted the existence of North and South America—five centuries before Columbus. Rarely in history has a more impressive group of polymaths appeared at one place and time. No wonder that their writings influenced European culture from the time of St. Thomas Aquinas down to the scientific revolution, and had a similarly deep impact in India and much of Asia.

Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr

In this sweeping and richly illustrated history, S. Frederick Starr tells the fascinating but largely unknown story of Central Asia’s medieval enlightenment through the eventful lives and astonishing accomplishments of its greatest minds—remarkable figures who built a bridge to the modern world. Because nearly all of these figures wrote in Arabic, they were long assumed to have been Arabs. In fact, they were from Central Asia—drawn from the Persianate and Turkic peoples of a region that today extends from Kazakhstan southward through Afghanistan, and from the easternmost province of Iran through Xinjiang, China.

Lost Enlightenment recounts how, between the years 800 and 1200, Central Asia led the world in trade and economic development, the size and sophistication of its cities, the refinement of its arts, and, above all, in the advancement of knowledge in many fields. Central Asians achieved signal breakthroughs in astronomy, mathematics, geology, medicine, chemistry, music, social science, philosophy, and theology, among other subjects. They gave algebra its name, calculated the earth’s diameter with unprecedented precision, wrote the books that later defined European medicine, and penned some of the world’s greatest poetry. One scholar, working in Afghanistan, even predicted the existence of North and South America—five centuries before Columbus. Rarely in history has a more impressive group of polymaths appeared at one place and time. No wonder that their writings influenced European culture from the time of St. Thomas Aquinas down to the scientific revolution, and had a similarly deep impact in India and much of Asia.

What has the Arab Spring brought to science in countries that did not see a regime change? SciDev.Net investigates.
(Image Credit: Espen Rasmussen/Panos)

What has the Arab Spring brought to science in countries that did not see a regime change? SciDev.Net investigates.

(Image Credit: Espen Rasmussen/Panos)

Google doodle celebrates Muslim physicist
If you live in one of the Arab states of the Middle East, then you will likely have been greeted by an interesting new Google doodle today for the anniversary of one of the most celebrated Muslim medeival scientists.
Ibn al-Haytham, known in the West by his Latinized name Alhazen, was born 1 July, 956 AD, in Basra in present-day Iraq but lived most of his life in Egypt. A polymath, Alhazen has contributed to the sciences of optics, astronomy, mathematics and philosophy. He is one of the earliest, if not the first, theoretical physicists in the world, using mathematics to prove his theories of optics.

Google doodle celebrates Muslim physicist

If you live in one of the Arab states of the Middle East, then you will likely have been greeted by an interesting new Google doodle today for the anniversary of one of the most celebrated Muslim medeival scientists.

Ibn al-Haytham, known in the West by his Latinized name Alhazen, was born 1 July, 956 AD, in Basra in present-day Iraq but lived most of his life in Egypt. A polymath, Alhazen has contributed to the sciences of optics, astronomy, mathematics and philosophy. He is one of the earliest, if not the first, theoretical physicists in the world, using mathematics to prove his theories of optics.

Introducing Nature Arabic Edition 

An important development for science in the Middle East?

Fahad Al-Attiya: A country with no water

Imagine a country with abundant power — oil and gas, sunshine, wind (and money) — but missing one key essential for life: water. Infrastructure engineer Fahad Al-Attiya talks about the unexpected ways that the small Middle Eastern nation of Qatar creates its water supply.

Fahad Al-Attiya’s job is to maintain food security in Qatar, a country that has no water and imports 90 percent of its food.

All this may seem touching – yet the projects and the people behind them command respect. Instead of running away, more and more young Lebanese like Najwa, Hind and Ziad are fighting for futures in their own country. And showing greater enthusiasm and responsibility than the state has seen for decades. Who can say what they might yet achieve?

Inspiring, Lebanon’s Young Fight for the Country’s Future with Thought & Vision 

Business Innovation in Lebanon The Other Spring by Mona Sarkis

Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire

I like to believe that we will be free, and we will have high-quality research centres in Palestine and the Arab world where students will want to study for PhDs, and continue onto postdocs. The logical progress of research is simply amazing. I honestly have no idea what I will be doing 10 years from now, but I want a world class cancer research centre in Palestine one day and will certainly continue teaching along with my research.

Rula Abdul-Salam Abdul-Ghani - Faculty of Medicine, AL-Quds University, Jerusalem, Palestine

Rula is one of 9 exceptional Arab women scientists who won funding for their research from the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women In Science Pan-Arab Regional Fellowships Program in association with the Arab Science & Technology Foundation (ASTF).

Where next for Arab science? Q&A with Jordan’s Princess Sumaya

How has the Arab Spring provided opportunities for science and technology?

A large part of it is people starting to think in terms of meritocracy. A huge potential of talent has been unleashed — talent that was previously held back by corruption and by cronyism, and by a disregard for meritocratic progress. This is when we can start talking about the Arab Spring becoming the Arab Summer — when we see people assessed on, and acknowledged for what they are able to contribute. You cannot have successful scientific cooperation without meritocracy. The great new freedom has started to entice a lot of the Arab diaspora — we have lost so many of our talented people in the past.

Is there a lesson for other Arab countries that have not experienced protests?

I think so and that’s not just the result of the Arab Spring. Slowly people have started to realise that the way forward is investment in human resources, not in cement or other commodities. And, while some of our neighbouring countries have put huge amounts into science cities and so on, ultimately it’s the working partnerships that we develop between different scientists that will make the big difference. In Jordan, our great resource is human capital and that is what we are investing in. When we think about the Arabic and Islamic world, the contribution we have made to science and technology is a very important part of our heritage, and now is the time for us to continue from where we left off.