How Women Are Changing the Web

The Web of the immediate future is one that is increasingly visual, empathetic and design-centric. If it had a gender, it would be female. 

If the Web had a gender, it would be female. There, I've said it. Despite all the traditional indicators typically cited - such as the declining number of women signing up for computer science majors at our nation's universities or the relatively small number of female tech CEOs - the future of the Web is largely being determined by women, and it's not just a matter of demographics. Yes, women now account for more than 50% of the workforce for the first time ever, but the way we think about and use the Web is also changing.


The Web is less about coding and programming, and more about design and aesthetics. Just a few years ago, go-to destinations on the Internet for Web designers would have included sites like Slashdot; now they also include sites like Swiss Miss and Core 77. As a result, typical surveys that examine the number of people in Internet-related fields are likely under-counting the number of women. When it comes to the Web, roles like "social media strategist" and "community manager" are just as likely to be women as men.

In fact, social networking sites like Facebook are now becoming women-centric. The latest numbers show that 57% of the world's 400 million Facebook users are women. Not only that, but women account for 62% of all sharing on Facebook and tend to have 8% more friends on Facebook than their male peers. In a word, women are just more social than men. At the same time, studies are showing that young girls are also more ardent and passionate users of the Web for sharing and conversation than young boys. It's not too far-fetched to extrapolate from this broad-based trend that social networking sites will continue to change and evolve in ways that favor women.

At the same time, women-dominated domains that previously were far beyond the reach of the Internet - such as fashion and art - are now firmly becoming part of the Web's very fabric. Important contributors, such as Gilt Groupe co-founders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and Rent the Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, have forced traditional fashion brands to re-think the Web. Ahead of events such as New York Fashion Week, there are now countless stories about the number of brands and fashion personalities using Web content creation sites like Tumblr. Within the art world, innovators like Julia Kaganskiy of The Creators Project and Dasha Zhukova of Art.sy are forcing us to re-think the traditional dividing line between Art and the Web.

The Web of the immediate future is one that is increasingly visual, empathetic and design-centric. Video and photography are informing the shape and direction of the Web in ways that will encourage more girls than ever before to consider a career with technology and the Internet. The right-brain world famously described by Dan Pink is fast becoming a reality, and that reality augurs in a very real chance that girls growing up today will turn out to be the Web visionaries of tomorrow.

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Why "nuclear pasta" is the strongest material in the universe

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Accretion disk surrounding a neutron star. Credit: NASA
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The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.

Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv

Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.

The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.

While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.

One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.

"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"

Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.

The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.

Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.


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Image: NASA
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"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.

One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.

The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.

Source: Wolovick et al.

An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.

But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.

Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.

"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.

"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."

A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.

"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."