296: Orange Tabby

This week, India became the first Asian nation to reach Mars when its orbiter entered the planet’s orbit on Wednesday — and this is the picture that was seen around the world to mark this historic event. It shows a group of female scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) congratulating one another on the mission’s success. The picture was widely shared on Twitter where Egyptian journalist and women’s rights activist Mona El-Tahawy tweeted: “Love this pic so much. When was the last time u saw women scientists celebrate space mission?” In most mission room photos of historic space events or in films about space, women are rarely seen, making this photo both compelling and unique. Of course, ISRO, like many technical agencies, has far to go in terms of achieving gender balance in their workforce. As Rhitu Chatterjee of PRI’s The World observed in an op-ed, only 10 percent of ISRO’s engineers are female.This fact, however, Chatterjee writes, is “why this new photograph of ISRO’s women scientists is invaluable. It shatters stereotypes about space research and Indian women. It forces society to acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of female scientists. And for little girls and young women seeing the picture, I hope it will broaden their horizons, giving them more options for what they can pursue and achieve.” To read Chatterjee’s op-ed on The World, visit http://bit.ly/1u3fvGZPhoto credit: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

- A Mighty Girl

Painted the girl and her wolf.


I have been asking Kate Beaton to draw a Red Sonja cover for the monthly book since issue one. Since she hasn’t done a lot of covers, she was the ONLY female artist we asked who (reluctantly) turned us down.
I think she has agreed to do one if time permits, and she sent this on Twitter to hold us over and I just love it. Kate, you are awesome!

I picked up Red Sonja vol. 1 yesterday and read it cover to cover.  I hadn’t really read the comics when I drew this doodle, but it was a super fun (and violent and all the rest) read!  

First episode of Book 4: After All These Years
Watch the opening sequence provided by IGN.

-beth pecora

+10 years probably 

Do you say “um” or “uh”?


Mark Liberman at Language Log has had several posts lately about gender and age effects of “uh” and “um” and other words. There’s basic summary of them, with graphs, from the Atlantic

Overall, he found that women say “um” 22 percent more than men do, but men say “uh” more than twice as often as women do. A 2011 study by Eric Acton yielded similar results.

When the two genders are speaking to each other, they try to meet in the middle: “Males use uh about 14 percent less often when talking with a female rather than a male, and females use uh about about 20 percent more often when talking with a male rather than a female,” Liberman writes. (There’s not nearly as much accommodation with “um.”)

What Liberman found, essentially, was that young men speak like old women: “The rate of ‘um’ usage for the younger men is almost the same as the rate of ‘um’ usage for the older women.” 


This reminds me of that Twitter study a while back by Tyler Schnoebelen and others, showing that gender-associated speech also has network effects. A summary of the effect, from Ben Zimmer

They found that even though you can categorize certain words as having a higher male or female probability, it’s easy to find large swaths of Twitter users who go against these trends. By grouping people by their style of usage, they could find, for example, a cluster of authors that is 72 percent male but nonetheless favors the nonstandard spellings that are supposedly a hallmark of “female” language.

Digging deeper, the researchers looked at the social networks that people create on Twitter, making connections by “following” and replying to other users. When you take these networks into account, the gender picture gets even more complex. It turns out that the statistical outliers (men who use language that’s associated with women, and vice versa) are more likely to have networks skewing to the other gender. A man who favors emoticons is more likely to have a high proportion of women in his network. And a woman who frequently mentions the names of sports teams likely has a lot of male friends. The takeaway from Schnoebelen’s presentation is that a simple binary model of gender isn’t sufficient in understanding the welter of language styles in the Twittersphere—or, by implication, in everyday life.

So I’m wondering if people with a lot of male or female friends would pattern like their network with respect to “uh” and “um” as well. It might be harder to do a study of this on Twitter though, because we tend to use disfluencies a lot more rarely and consciously in text than in speech, so it’s not clear that any of the trends would necessarily be the same. And I doubt that network friend gender ratio was recorded for the participants in the corpus that Language Log is using, alas. 


It’s a mystery!