Geocaching Milestones

A backpack, baseball cap, 2 pairs of shoes, and a geocache container sitting on a rock.As this whole blog has been rather in-active during the last 2 years (that’s pretty much the point where I started being active in student representation … coincidence?), there’s not been a lot of talk about anything but the role model articles. Priorities – I haz them.

So, I checked my archives. The last time I talked about geocaching was in summer 2014. That was the trip to Italy (and Slovenia), when I hit 460 founds. By the end of 2014, I had logged over 500 geocaches. Then I started setting goals … by the end of 2015, I wanted to have a log of 700 finds. It was a close call, I had a few very active days just before New Year’s Eve, but made it: log number 704 happened on December 30 in Hamburg, Germany.

The plan for 2016 is to again log about 200 geocaches within a year. As we’ve seen last year, that’s absolutely feasible. So by December 31, 2016, I want to have logged my 900.

Another thing I’m planning is to make a collection of some of the coolest caches that I found, here on this blog. This won’t be easy, because I haven’t been taking pictures everytime I went out to search, and I probably have forgotten some very nice hideouts already. But nevertheless, there will be a nice gallery starting soon!

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Role Model Sunday: Elena Cornaro Piscopia

Portrait of Elena Piscopia. Source: Wikipedia Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, (5 June 1646 – 26 July 1684) was an Italian philosopher of noble descent, who was the first woman to receive an academic degree from a university. I discovered this excellent woman’s story while researching Laura Bassi.

Elena was considered to be an expert musician. In addition to mastering the sciblis of her time-which means she mastered almost the entire body of knowledge-Elena mastered the harpsichord, the clavichord, the harp, and the violin. Her skills were shown by the music that she composed in her lifetime.

She was a member of various academies and was esteemed throughout Europe for her attainments and virtues. According to Margaret Alic, she became a mathematics lecturer at the University of Padua in 1678. The last years of her life were devoted to study and charity. She died at Padua in 1684 of tuberculosis, was buried in the church of Santa Giustina at Padua, and her statue was placed in the university.

By the advice of a friend of the family’s, she began the study of Latin and Greek and became proficient in these languages at the age of seven. She also mastered Hebrew, Spanish, French and Arabic, earning the title of “Oraculum Septilingue”. Her later studies included mathematics, philosophy, and theology. She was invited to be a part of many scholarly societies when her fame spread and in 1670 became president of the Venetian society Accademia dei Pacifici.

When the bishop of Padua learned that she was pursing a degree in theology, he refused on the grounds that she was a woman. However, he did allow for her to get a degree in philosophy. The degree was conferred on 25 June 1678, in Padua Cathedral in the presence of the University authorities, the professors of all the faculties, the students, and most of the Venetian Senators, together with many invited guests from the Universities of Bologna, Perugia, Rome, and Naples. The Lady Elena spoke for an hour in classical Latin, explaining difficult passages selected at random from the works of Aristotle. She was listened to with great attention, and when she had finished, she received plaudits as Professor Rinaldini proceeded to award her the insignia of the laurea, the book of philosophy, placing the wreath of laurel on her head, the ring on her finger, and over her shoulders the ermine mozetta. This scene is illustrated in the Cornaro Window in the West Wing of the Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College.

Her death was marked by memorial services in Venice, Padua, Siena, and Rome. Her writings, published at Parma in 1688, include academic discourses, translations, and devotional treatises. In 1685 the University of Padua caused a medal to be struck in her honour. In 1895 Abbess Mathilda Pynsent of the English Benedictine Nuns in Rome had Elena’s tomb opened, the remains placed in a new casket, and a suitable tablet inscribed to her memory.

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Role Model Sunday: Margaret Hamilton

Portrait of Margaret Hamilton, 1995This woman’s story could be found in my (and probably your) facebook stream for a couple of months, on and off. The picture I’m posting here is way more recent than the famous one used in all the postings telling us about her greatest achievement, so you probably didn’t recognize here. The famous picture is that of a young woman, wearing big glasses and a striped dress, proudly smiling into the camera, standing next to a huge pile of documents.

Meet Margaret Hamilton, the woman who sent the Apollo mission to the moon (and back again).

Margaret Hamilton had a B.A. in mathematics from Earlham College, and after teaching highschool mathematics for some time, she and her husband moved to Boston. The plan was for him to finish his graduate studies, while Margaret would be working to sustain them both, in order to finish a graduate programme in mathematics when he was done with his.

Hamilton popularized the term “software engineering” (coinedby Anthony Oettinger), and was one of those who developed important software concepts. Some of these are priority scheduling, end-to-end testing, and human-in-the-loop decision capability, such as priority displays.

As a working mother in the 1960s, Hamilton was unusual. She would bring her daughter Lauren to the lab on weekends and evenings. While the 4-year-old slept on the floor of the office, her mother programmed away. She loved the novelty of her job (“like the Wild West” is a term she used in an interview), and also liked the camaraderie. There were after-work drinks at the MIT faculty club, geek jokes and the like. At the lab, she said, she was “one of the guys.”

In 1965, Hamilton became responsible for the onboard flight software on the Apollo computers. Sometimes the pressure kept Hamilton up at night. Once, after a party, she rushed back to the lab to correct some code she’d suddenly realized was flawed. “I was always imagining headlines in the newspapers, and they would point back to how it happened, and it would point back to me.” (WIRED)

One day, when Hamilton’s daughter Lauren was playing with the MIT command module simulator’s display-and-keyboard unit. As she toyed with the keyboard, an error message popped up. Lauren had crashed the Apollo simulator by somehow launching a prelaunch program called P01 while the simulator was in midflight. There was no reason an astronaut would ever do this, but nonetheless, Hamilton wanted to add code to prevent the crash. That idea was overruled by NASA.  They told Hamilton and her team over and over that astronauts were trained to be perfect, so they would never make that mistake. She wanted to add error-checking code to the Apollo system that would prevent this from messing up the systems. But that seemed excessive to her higher-ups. “Everyone said, ‘That would never happen,’” Hamilton remembers.

But it did happen. Five days into the historic Apollo 8 flight which brought astronauts to the moon for the first-ever manned orbit, the astronaut Jim Lovell inadvertently selected P01 during flight. This wiped out all the navigation data Lovell had been collecting. Without that data, the computer wouldn’t be able to calculate and execute the route back. But Hamilton and her team developed a plan based on her program note regarding the problem, and thanks to that —and Lauren—the Apollo astronauts came home.

Sources for this article:

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Role Model Sunday: Laura Bassi

I heard about Laura Bassi first at University – there is a “Laura Bassi Competence Centre of Expertise” for Visual Analytics Science and Technology at the Faculty for Informatics. Then, some weeks ago, Laura Bassi popped up in my Facebook timeline as part of the minister for education and women’s (weird combo, I know!) ongoing series on women in history, #365Frauen (#365women).

So. Laura BasPortrait of Italian mathematician and physicist Laura Bassi (1711-1778) by Carlo Vandi (18th century); source: wikipediasi, born on 31 October 1711 to a wealthy family, she was tutored for 7 years as a teenager. She came to the attention of the future Pope Benedict XIV, who encouraged her scientific work.

At the age of 21, she was appointed professor of anatomy at University of Bologna, and one year later given the chair of philosophy, too. After Elena Cornaro Piscopia, 45 years before, Bassi was the 2nd woman in Europe to receive a degree from a university.

The defence of her degree, awarding ceremony, and first lecture in 1732 took place in the Palazzo Pubblico, one of the most important government buildings in Bologna. They were attended by “not only the university faculty and students, but also by principal political and religious figures of the city – the Papal Legate and Vice-Legate, the Archbishop of Bologna, the Gonfaloniere, the Elders, senators and magistrates. Additionally, ‘all the ladies of Bologna and all the nobility’.” (wikpedia)

In 1738, she married Giuseppe Veratti, whom she chose because he, “like myself, is advancing on the path of science andof whom, through long experience, I could be sure that he would not dissuade me from this.” (brochure of Laura Bassi Centres)

In the beginning of her professorship, she was restricted to teach only in occasional lectures. As of 1738, she was allowed to lecture from home on a regular basis and successfully petitioned the University for more responsibility and a higher salary to allow her to purchase her own equipment.

Bassi was mainly interested in Newtonian physics, teaching courses, carrying out experiments and writing papers on the subject for 28 years. In order to teach Newtonian physics and Franklinian electricity (both not included in the Bologna curriculum), Bassi gave private lessons. She wrote 28 papers, the majority on physics and hydraulics, but did not write any books. Although only a small number of her scientific works were left behind (she published only 4 of her papers), much of her impact is documented through her many correspondents in all of Europe – these included e.g. Voltaire and Alessandro Volta. Voltaire once wrote to her saying “There is no Bassi in London, and I would be much happier to be added to your Academy of Bologna than that of the English, even though it has produced a Newton”.

In 1745, Pope Benedict XIV established an elite group of 25 scholars known as the Benedettini (“Benedictines”, named after himself.) Bassi pressed hard to be appointed to this group, but there was a mixed reaction from the other academics. Ultimately, Benedict did appoint her, the only woman in the group.

In 1776, at the age of 65, she was appointed to the chair in experimental physics by the Bologna Institute of Sciences, with her husband as a teaching assistant.

Two years later, she died, having made physics into a lifelong career and broken a huge amount of ground for women in academic circles.

My sources for this text were wikipedia ( and the website (or rather, one of its brochures) of the Laura Bassi Centres of Expertise. These research centres, introduced by the Ministry of Economy, Research and Sciences in Austria, are headed by excellent women, creating an interface between science and economy. The seven Laura Bassi Centres conduct research in the areas of medicine, life sciences and IT.

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Role Model Sunday: Elise Richter

Richter's Student ID, picture: Thomas H.

Richter’s Student ID, picture: Thomas H.

Elise Richter was one of the first women to study at University of Vienna, starting in 1897. Of these 3 women, only Elise Richter’s student ID can still be found at the city’s public library at city hall.

Elise finished her studies of philosophy and romance languages in 1901. The Dean strongly opposed her receiving the venia legendi (right to teach courses), as he deemed it impossible for men letting a woman teach them. Still, in 1905 (or 1907, depending on the source) she received her Habilitation, and was appointed extra-ordinary professor in 1921 (with 50% of the votes against her) – she never made it to ordinary professor.

She founded the Association of Austrian Academic Women (Verband der Akademikerinnen Österreichs) and chaired it (from 1920 on, or from 1922 to 1930 – sources diverge again). As of 1928, she was in charge of the phonetic institute at University of Vienna. Her work was focused on linguistics (semantics, syntax, phonetics, …), but also included cultural and historic influences in her many publications (over 300). One thing she discovered was the influence of psychological processes on language.

As she was of Jewish ancestry, live became tough as of 1938. She lost her job at the University and could only publish in the Netherlands and Italy from 1940 to 1942. In 1942, she and her sister were moved to a Jewish home for the elderly. From there, they were deported to Terezín/Theresienstadt concentration camp in November 1942. Helene, an Anglist and critic (she published e.g. on Mary Shelley), died on November 8, 1942. Elise died on June 23, 1943.

In 2008, the City of Vienna renamed a street in the 21st district after Elise Richter.

Sources for this article were the City of Vienna’s wiki and wikipedia.

Elise Richter has been brought to my attention by a good friend, Thomas. He, too, loves Vienna – and every day, he publishes a factoid on the city on twitter, using #wienfakt (German only, sorry.). The picture source is his #twandertag storyify.

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Role Model Sunday: Sophie Wilson

IMG_20151015_185638Sophie Wilson is a British computer scientist known for designing the instruction set of the ARM RISC-processor. This processor nowadays is an important part of most mobile devices, as it makes tablets and smartphones faster and more energy efficient.  She studied University of Cambridge and during her time as a student already developed a machine to automate cattle feeding as well as an 8-Bit-Microprocessor for Acorn. Later on, she and Steve Furber built a microcomputer for the BBC while working at Acorn.

Sophie has been named a Fellow of the Computer History Museum and was accepted into the Royal Society. Maximum PC ( in 2011 named her one of the 15 most important women in computer history. The picture shows poster printed by the german “Gesellschaft für Informatik” ( as part of the series “faces of computer science”, detailing her career. Other persons featured in the poster series are Alan Turing, Ada Lovelace, Joseph Weizenbaum and Grace Hopper.

Sources for this article were the pictured poster and the Sophie Wilson wikipedia article.

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3 months without a post. Wow, that’s bad!

A short update on what I’ve been up to:

  • doing research for my bachelor’s thesis
  • work (10 hours per week maximum) on Eurographics Workshop VCBM, happening NOW.
  • general uni stuff
  • wrote a wikipedia article for Ina Wagner(still needs translation into English)
  • lots of stuff at/with/for the Student’s Union
  • 3 weeks of vacation in Italy, including lots of geocaching (current status: 460 found!)

So my plan for the next week is to get the pictures from Italy sorted and write about that a bit.
Also, if you want to see what happens during the next days, follow the vcbm twitter account that I’m curating!

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