Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood beauty and… inventor of secret military technology?

Hedy Lamarr was one of the great leading ladies of Hollywood in the 1930’s and 40’s. Some regard her as the most beautiful woman who ever graced the silver screen. Her heyday began almost 80 years ago, but her name is still well-known, certainly to movie buffs.

Even with a passing acquaintance from film studies, I, with an interest in both classic cinema and novel technologies, missed the fact that Hedy Lamarr was also an inventor.

She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Together with a friend, she patented technology in 1941 to prevent interception of military radio signals by the enemy. Their innovation used spread spectrum and frequency hopping to obscure information. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because your wifi relies upon Lamarr’s idea, as do cell phones.

Who knew?

But, then again, why are we surprised?

Perhaps Lamarr, herself, provides a clue with this quote:

“Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

She certainly was glamorous. Equally obvious: she wasn’t stupid.

Young women should not avoid STEM careers for fear of appearing unfeminine. Here’s a great example of a beautiful lady whose brain was as impressive as her countenance.

Another Lamarr quote provides a hint to the secret of her many successes:

“I win because I learned years ago that scared money always loses. I never care, so I win.”

Worry less about what others think, and more about what you can do. This is particularly compelling advice for women, who are likely to be judged less capable before they even begin.

You can’t win if you’re afraid to enter the race.

Smart women know what they have to offer. They should also feel free to remain attractive while they’re proving it. If that’s a distraction to the men in the room, use the advantage to move on past them while they’re addled. They can’t help it; they were born with this biological disadvantage.*

The reverse is equally true, of course. You don’t have to look like Hedy Lamarr to be a kick ass engineer, but I don’t think the internet needs an essay from me to assume a technological wunderkind looks more like Velma than Daphne.**

Apologies to Hedy Lamarr, Velma, Daphne, and the field of art in general for the quality of my sketches. No actual character, living or dead, real or fictional, is indicated by the drawings above. I was looking to illustrate stereotypes in 60 seconds with a Sharpie.

 

*I’m tired of hearing bad science spouted about biological differences. I think it’s stupid to shut down discussion of the topic. All reasonable debate of possibilities is valid and can lead to gains in knowledge. However, is an area in which theories are constantly conflated with facts. Nonsense cuts both ways.

**Scooby Doo reference; original 1969 animated series, naturally

Inspired by Math with Bad Drawings: “I’m not going to tell you what to call your cat’s mustache.”

Usually, I’m admiring Ben Orlin’s mathematics-oriented comic sketches for making his point-of-the-moment. Today, however, I was so tickled by a phrase therein (a quote from his wife) that I am re-blogging just to continue poking around in my fascination with these few words.

It’s right at the top of his post, and you needn’t follow any of the math to appreciate the sentence with which I’m enamored.* My interest is in the words and the absurd.

Math. Cats.

via A Mathematician Looks at a Cat — Math with Bad Drawings

Now, for the bit I love:

[Ben Orlin’s] WIFE: … I’m not going to tell you what to call your cat’s mustache.

I love this sentence: the absurdity of a cat’s mustache; the interplay between husband and wife when an argument can’t—or needn’t—be won. It’s perfect.

And all of it came nestled in the excelsior of math humor—a fascinating subject, frequently misunderstood, most especially by those who could benefit the most from plumbing its depths.

Excelsior - 1I’m in my weirdest, wordiest, quantitatively nerdiest happy place with this one.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to start repeating this to my family at moments they will find annoying. Previously, they had to suffer primarily through Christopher Durang quotes from The Nature & Purpose of the Universe.

If you’re curious, read more about this one act play on the playwright’s site. It is decidedly dark and wouldn’t be palatable to all audiences.

If someone refers to me as “she,” I quote the play and quip, “She is the cat’s mother. I am the Pope!”

Now, I can follow up with: “I’m not going to tell you what to call your cat’s mustache!”

Perhaps I only spout absurdist quotes about cats. Then again, cats might represent the ultimate expression of the absurd.

What is “the nature and purpose of the Universe,” really?

I think it has something to do with cats.

Batman lego fairy

*But we should talk later about finding your own personal entrée into a love of mathematics. Math is for everyone! And, no, that’s not a threat. It’s more like an invitation to join a cult.

31 days of blogging: the origin story of Really Wonderful Things

One month of daily blogging: completed!

I have toyed with the idea of blogging from the minute I heard it defined in the 1990’s. A friend who values my judgement (and addiction to comparison shopping) has been prodding me to start one for reviewing products for years.

Sometime last spring, the idea came to me to call “my imaginary future blog” Really Wonderful Things. At last, I’d figured out what tied together all the stuff I wanted to write about: being wonder-full.

Really Wonderful Things are ideas and objects, passions and people—anything that strikes me as a force for good, or a source for a good wonder. I wonder about lots of things. I find human accomplishments incredibly wonderful. The world is full of wonders to explore.

My husband reserved the domain name for me last year as a mother’s day gift. And then it sat while I focused on other things. This year, just before the renewal notification for the domain registration arrived, I was working on an organization project for our camping equipment. I thought, “Someone else might find these ideas helpful.”

And—it’s about flipping time!—I took action. My first post was Organizing the chuck box & storing camp kitchen gear

On March 30, 2017, reallywonderfulthings.me was born.

Inspirations

Aside from the support of my ever- occasionally-patient family, and the prodding of one friend who really wants to know how I find and rate the myriad useful objects in my life, two other people sparked life into this blog.

Crazy Russian Dad

I am friends with a guy who’s a busy, successful professional, a loving family man, and, in his spare time, an entertaining YouTube innovator with thousands of followers: Crazy Russian Dad. He decided to make daily videos for his YouTube channel for one year, and he did it (and then some!)

When I started my blog, I wanted to follow his example. Concrete goals help me stay on track. Posting on a schedule gives your followers a reason to trust you: if you show up, I’ll be here to continue the conversation.

I committed myself to one month of daily posts, and here I am.

“Just” another mom stepping back into the professional world

And then there’s a friend—a full time parent, like me—who’s been accepted into a graduate degree program. Her kids are younger than mine. She’s been out of the job market as long as I have.

We’ve commiserated many times about the creeping anxieties of the stay-at-home parent:

  • Can I step back into the world of work when I’m ready?
  • Am I relevant?
  • Is my contribution going to be valued?

She’s nervous about becoming a student again, and in a field outside of her undergraduate degree, but she’s facing those feelings down in pursuit of a dream.

I want to act as courageously as my friend!

She was another inspiration to create the content for which I saw a need. Her courage—though she doesn’t see it as such—helped nudge me into action. She helped me remember my voice, and gave me the courage to speak up.

I have something to say, and there are people out there who want to hear me say it.

Thank you!

Thank you so much to every follower and casual reader. Your attention has been very much appreciated. Let’s keep the conversation going!