A few weeks ago I watched a documentary called Einstein and E=mc2 with my sister McCool. It was pretty great. Since McCool started studying science, I have been acutely aware of how little science related knowledge I have, and yet I find it fascinating, so I have been on a science knowledge building rampage ever since. I have learnt new cool words like electromagnetism, and finally started to have an understanding of what things like atoms, neurons, electrons and gravity, actually are. “Gravity” is my new favourite answer to any science related question:
Random person who likes to quiz others on science: “What makes the sky blue?
Me: “GRAVITY!” [Then proceed to run away. Possibly throw a smoke bomb also.]
The first great thing about this documentary, well, was obviously that I was with McCool when I was watching it. Secondly, I finally didn’t have to try and visualise in my own wee mind what magnetic and electric forces are actually doing and why they are important… this documentary not only used little imaginary sparkly lines to represent lines of force, so that I could easily see what the otherwise invisible magnetic and electric forces were doing, but also gave a little story about the guy who discovered all these amazing things about the sparkly lines, and stories about other people who built further on these sparkly lines. Yep, that’s about the gist of the documentary.
A penny definitely dropped concerning matters such as electric forces, atoms and something about light being a combination of electricity and gravity – ok, so maybe a full penny didn’t drop, but definitely at least, a bit of a penny. However, I thought the greatest thing about the documentary were the stories about all of the scientists behind these amazing theories, discoveries and inventions.
In particular, that of Emilie du Chatelet – a massively understated scientist and mathematician of the 18th century (by the time her work really entered the scientific mainstream, the idea that a woman had come up with such ideas was discredited so much that even scientists who did use her ideas came to forget who had originated them).
Emilie du Chatelet was also incredibly talented in languages, tiggy (according to the documentary), and good at pulling lovers – which unfortunately was ultimately her tragic demise, falling pregnant to a hot young thing, at what back then was a super risky age of 43, and then sadly dying shortly after giving birth. She did a lot of cool shit during not only her short life, but a life of a woman in a society where the notion of educating girls was disliked and discouraged. She is definitely worth googling. I did. I loved it.
One of the things she is most well-known for is her work on translating and providing commentary on Isaac Newton’s work Principia Mathematica [What?! – Amazing]. Her contributions have helped shape the course of mathematics and the development of science. You read about her, and she is also described as having managed to maintain her confidence and position in Paris society whilst continuing to pursue her love for mathematics. In other words, an all-round top bloke.
Voltaire, one of her lovers, and long term friend, wrote in a letter to King Frederick II of Prussia that Emilie was “a great man whose only fault was being a woman”. It appears he dumped her as a lover because she was smarter than him, being afraid of her seeing his weaknesses (despite having been attracted to her in the first place by her intelligence) – what an idiot. However, Emilie insisted that she would be fine without Voltaire, writing that it was “preposterous to think that an intelligent woman needed a man to be happy”. Queue, “I don’t need a man to make me happy, I get off being free” streaming loudly from Emilie’s i-pod dock, whilst continuing to critique Newton’s laws of motion – obviously.
One of my ex-lovers wrote about me once, “McAwkward was a great woman, whose only fault was being bat shit crazy.” I guess he was afraid of me being able to see his crazy on account of my insight into my own crazy…. jokes. However, I really wouldn’t be surprised if this was true, considering I am obviously a great woman, and yep, I am probably bat shit crazy.
I have no real “point” to this post, except to just point out how awesome Emilie is. I like to think we would have been best friends if I was also born in Paris in the early 1700’s. Alas, I was not born in either Paris or the 1700’s, so I will instead blog about her and add her to my list of inspiration women. She fucking owned it. And by own it, I mean she rocked the shit out of life, and was completely unapologetic about who she was.
I know I will definitely not be playing any pivotal role in the further development of the concept of energy, or in the development of any aspect of science for that matter, nor will I be writing any text that will be my claim to immortality, however, I am definitely going to do my best to “own it”, and rock out life the best I can, with no apologies about who I am to anybody.
I’m totally going to go and listen to I’m Every Women by Chaka Khan now.