The Secret to the Stickiness of Frog Spit 

Have you ever wondered how frogs’ tongues get their prey into their mouths? It’s a combination of a super soft tongue and spit that’s a non-Newtonian fluid rather like tomato ketchup, as explained in this fascinating Sciencium video:


Ada Lovelace Day and Women in Testing

“Society as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement and remuneration based on ability.”

– Sandra Day O’Connor.  Source: Brainy Quote

Regardless that some will accuse me of Jumping shamelessly onto the bandwagon, it’s nevertheless well worth noting that today is Ada Lovelace Day.  As I sit and type this in my work’s Test Lab, there are three male software testers, including me, and two female testers.  Our (male) Test Manager doesn’t count for the purposes of this headcount, since he’s not doing any testing, but has instead the unenviable job of juggling the schedule as our clients keep moving the goalposts.

Given what I have gleaned from other testers online, attending meetups like the London Tester Gatherings and the excellent Test Bash 2.0, Software Testing has a majority of men in its workforce.  However, does Software Testing have any more or less representative a gender ratio when compared to the rest of the amorphous mass that is, for want of a better term, “The IT Industry”?  According to an infographic in the Metro paper today in print and online17% of Britain’s Information Technology workforce is female.  I wonder how that proportion increases and decreases when you compare software Testers with Developers, DBAs and Systems Administrators, between Open and Closed source projects, or large and small companies?

While I was doing my BBST Foundations course (which I will get around to posting about in more detail, honestly) we had a getting-to-know-each-other session at the very start of it.  At one point, this raced off headlong into a tangent on the gender ratios present in different Testing teams.  The general consensus on that discussion thread were guesstimates of 10/90 or 20/80 female-to-male gender ratio in the working environments of those testers on the course.  In my own experience, there were no female testers at the last company I worked at out of half a dozen in-house testers.  On the one occasion when we had contract testers in to meet high demand (needing to test an app over 57 mobile devices does that), the ratio was about 40/60.  Having said that, I think there is less of a gender disparity in software testing compared to software development; there was one woman in a team of 30-odd developers at the same company.

One fellow BBSTer reckoned there was a 60/40 split at the last testing conference he was at.  I think the split was 40/60 or maybe 50/50 at Test Bash 2.0; perhaps the organisers can provide a more definitive and accurate ratio than my vague approximations?  Then again, it’s worth taking the discussions we had with a pinch of salt, given that they come from a self-selected sample of 25 students (7 female) and 6 teachers (1 female).

If anyone can point me at any hard research that has been done on this subject, I will be genuinely interested to read it and cite it here.  The Huffington Post has an article on girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and a handy link to a graph showing women as a share of total researchers.  As an interesting aside, it shows percentages of over 70% in Bolivia and Myanmar – anyone know why?  However, that graph covers academic research rather than all STEM-related jobs, where I suspect the percentages will be higher for men and less for women.  Do higher proportions of women get jobs in academia than in business?

I am making the assumption as I write this – feel free to prove me wrong – that the majority of those reading my blog do some kind of geeky, techy job, or at least have a hobby or two in that sphere.  What is the gender ratio where you work?

Pies, Energy and Quantum mechanics

Yes, folks, today is pie day – errrr, no wrong kind… I mean the mathematical irrational constant [3.1415926535…] that is the ratio of any Euclidean circle’s circumference to its diameter, better known as π, to  which pi day (in date format 3/14) is duly named after.  How do you celebrate Pi Day?  Well, here’s a handy list of ten suggestions of what to do that’s suitably mathematically geeky to mark the day.

Depending on what pi(e) you’re talking about depends on if you use the letter “e” or not, but E as a physical constant indicating energy, is a pretty fundamental part of physics, probably made ubiquitously well known by Albert Einstein’s formula E = mc2 as result of his solutions to Special Relativity.  The 14th March also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday.  Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t get a Nobel Prize for his work on Relativity, but was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”, sixteen years after that pesky little energy-mass equation everyone remembers.

Today is also the day when The Queen of Cyprus sold her kingdom to Venice (1489), The Mikado had its first London performance (1885) , The Gold Standard Act was ratified (1900), the first patient was successfully treated using penicillin (1942) and Linux kernel version 1.0.0 was released (1994).  I wonder how much it would cost to buy Cyprus these days?

Of course, those culinary bloggers at cakewrecks manage to combine both kinds of pi(e) for the occasion…

Easy as Pi

Mmmm… pie!

I have a sudden urge to have Steak Pie for dinner.  Now, where did my pi slice get to… I mean, pie slice.

The End of the World… or not, as it seems.

Don’t you just love Doomsayers?  You know, those fun filled people who think that the world is nigh or that everyone is going to get swept up in the Rapture…  or as it turned out, not in 2011.  Then again, perhaps 2012 will be their lucky year, as it were.

Luckily, NASA are here to comfort us all that the world – well, ours anyway – is not going to end in 2012.  As they rightly point out, the end of the long count of the Mesoamerican Calendar comes to an end on 21st December 2012, when a new long count begins.  There’s also not much chance of mythical planets appearing out of the wazoo to hit the Earth, nor ninja comets, meteor impacts or anything else you’ve probably heard about – as NASA says:

For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.

Well, that’s cleared that up then, hasn’t it?   Well, not quite.

Just to maintain the balance of the universe and to put a bright spin on the year, the Wired website has a fascinating article that details eight fun ways the world really could end in 2012(ish).  Worst of all, should they come to pass, Bruce Willis won’t be able to help avoid any of them.  Sorry.

Personally, my money is on human stupidity as by far the most likely way for humanity to disappear off the face of this planet during 2012.