Tuesday, February 23, 2016

#NFBookClub: Headstrong Discussion #2

This month I have been reading Headstrong by Rachel Swaby for the Nonfiction Book Club hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey. The month is almost over and I’ve finished the book so, it’s time for Discussion #2. Here are the questions from Katie, along with my answers.

Did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

This is such an open-ended question and hard to answer because there were so many interesting things happening. One thing I learned is that in general, the Nobel Prize is only awarded to living people. I hadn’t realized that until I read this book. Another thing that really struck me was how many of these women (and men) were Jewish and threatened by the events of WWII, to the point that they had to abandon their work and pick it up again elsewhere. It made me wonder how much more they could have accomplished had they been able to work without the distractions of war and relocation.

If you had to go to work in one of the scientific fields described in the book, which one would you choose and why?

This is another one that is a little tricky for me to answer. When I was very young, I used to play ‘astronaut’ and dream about space travel. Even now, I love looking at the night sky. Ironically, I ended up on the life sciences side, using my biochemistry and microbiology while working as a research biologist. Reading about these women made me realize how much I miss working in the lab. However, if I were choosing today, I think I’d be drawn into computers and software development.

Inspired by a comment by Kim of Time 2 Read, I’m curious – How do you feel about Sally Ride’s recommendation that NASA focus their efforts more here on Earth?

Ha….I’m inspirational! Since I’ve already discussed this, I won’t go into it too much. I do feel that NASA should be on the cutting edge of exploration and discovery. That doesn’t mean that that I think solving problems on earth isn’t important;  I just don’t think that NASA is the organization to handle that. Just as Lewis and Clark explored the frontiers of the 19th century, which led to development by others, I think NASA should be expanding our boundaries, both in space and in knowledge, and not sitting back so we can play ‘catch-up’ later while other countries continue to explore space.

Are there any other books that you’d recommend for further reading on science history, especially female scientists?

One book I’ve had on my list for awhile is The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan, an account of the atomic bomb work done at Oak Ridge, Tennessee during the second world war. I just learned about another book today and it has caught my interest. The Mercury 13 by Martha Ackmann is the story of thirteen women who were chosen to train as astronauts in the early days of the space program, long before Sally Ride. It is an older book, published about ten years ago, but I’m hoping I can find a copy.

Have you been participating in the Read-Along this month? What did you think of the book? Be sure to visit the discussion page on Katie’s blog to check-in with your answers and to learn what other readers think of the book!

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  1. You make a great point about WWII! It seems like it was a time when so many scientists were making great discoveries. While the war made the timeline longer, I think it also gave women the opportunity to work in some fields that had been previously closed to them. It would be interesting to imagine where we would be now if their research hadn't been interrupted, though...

  2. You are inspirational :) I always love your answers to these questions too. I didn't know that the Nobel prize was only awarded to dead people either and I was also surprised by how many of the scientists in the book were Jewish and impacted by WWII. The Girls of Atomic City has been on my to-read list for a long time too.