Tag Archive for: instruments


Yesterday, National Public Radio in the US published an interview with an astronomer, in which he’s quoted saying:

“Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call ‘boys with toys’.”

Many other scientists are, of course, not boys at all. But they still have toys, and for the last eleven hours or so Twitter has been awash with fantastic photos of scientists, grouped under #girlswithtoys. There are lots of telescopes:

…there are plenty of other bits of apparatus and equipment:

I have no idea what a dual intracellular amp is, but it’s clearly making someone happy.

Then there are the not-really-instruments-just-cool-toys:

Drop whatever you’re doing and spend a few minutes scrolling through the #girlswithtoys stream (see also the live feed). It’s a glorious depiction of scientists doing what they love, with the tools and instruments of their work.

(top image from this tweet – who doesn’t love a spot of Antarctic heli-fishing?)

Update, 11am: One of the most remarkable photographs is this:

Margaret Hamilton during the Apollo Program (NASA / WikiMedia Commons)

Margaret Hamilton during the Apollo Program (NASA / WikiMedia Commons)

I’d never heard of Margaret Hamilton, which seems outrageous given that she was the lead flight software engineer on the Apollo programme. That is: the code written by her team landed men on the moon. In the final moments before touchdown, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module computer was swamped with excess data and pushed beyond its limits. It’s a fairly standard story in software engineering circles about how the development team anticipated such a situation and had built a system that could tolerate it. Their foresight avoided calamity.

I’ve read the story many times, but I’ve never heard it mentioned that Hamilton led that development group, nor that she coined the very term ‘software engineering.’ Her Wikipedia page is awesome.