Ada Lovelace Day 2011 – On Paranormal Investigators Extraordinaire

This Ada Lovelace Day on October 7, share your story about a woman — whether an engineer, a scientist, a technologist or mathematician — who has inspired you to become who you are today. Write a blog post, record a podcast, film a video, draw a comic, or pick any other way to talk about the women who have been guiding lights in your life. Give your heroine the credit she deserves!

When deciding who to write about, I found myself not so lacking in inspiration – more overwhelmed with choice! As Gia Milinovich wrote about Ada Lovelace Day: These women may not be programmers or designers or scientists or mathematicians or entrepreneurs or consultants or developers. Instead they are a Muse, a Test Subject, a Critic, a Collaborator, a Guide, a Teacher, a Student, an Inspiration, a Motivator … a Partner. They are the reason why their men are able to succeed in changing our world. Don’t forget them.”

For Ada Lovelace day in 2010, I wrote about women in podcasting who inspired meMur Lafferty and Robyn ‘Swoopy’ McCarthy are pioneers in the field of podcasting, let alone being female podcasters.

This year I’ve transcribed interviews with skeptics, for a book called ‘The Scope of Skepticism’. I’ve made a point of including as many women’s stories as possible in the book, because I know that gender parity (and even prejudice) in skepticism has been an ongoing discussion for some time. Some of the women who will feature include Indre Viskontas, Hayley Stevens, Joey Hayban, Barbara Drescher and Dr Pamela Gay.

However, those great, powerful women and their unquestionably awesome contributions to science and skepticism are ones I discovered later in life. There are two I met when I first started out in skepticism, when role-models (let alone academics with a track-record of fine, professional work) were difficult to find. They are Dr Karen Stollznow and Dr Krissy Wilson.

You can readily find the work of Dr Karen Stollznow, of the Point of Inquiry podcast, amongst other places; she’s an author, a lecturer and a researcher. She writes for The Skeptic magazine’s ‘Bad Language’ column, and both the Skeptical Inquirer magazine and the online CSICOP site’s ‘Naked Skeptic’ column.

Dr Stollznow’s podcasting contributions also include Skeptic.com’s Monster Talk podcast, which is up to its forty-third episode. Her work investigating paranormal claims were amongst the first I read and her existence was a much-needed challenge to the ‘white-old-bearded-man-skeptic’ stereotype that persists even today. More recently she was interviewed on the topic of psychics for the television show of Anderson Cooper, which will air on October 10th.

I met and interviewed Dr Krissy Wilson back in 2007, when I was at a convention in Hobart – she was the first anomalistic psychologist I ever met, having completed her PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London.Her main areas of interest are the psychology of belief, the unreliable nature of eyewitness testimony, false memories and the impact of belief and her articles are published in Personality and Individual Differences, The European Journal of Parapsychology and The British Journal of Psychology. She, along with Karen, is credited in my M.Ed thesis on paranormal beliefs, for being one of the role models for the research I did.

Here is a segment of an interview I conducted with her, back in 2007:

One of the retorts I tend to get from believers is “Well, okay Miss Smarty Pants, what do you believe in?” And I’ve thought about this for quite a long time and this is what I’ve come up with: the thing that I absolutely, wholeheartedly believe in is the seemingly limitedless capacity we have for human self deception.

A lesson I learned early and one that has held up over time. This is in appreciation for both Karen and Krissy on Ada Lovelace Day, from Kylie.

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About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.

  • Aliasalpha

    Ahh Ada Lovelace, every IT guy’s first true love…

    As the original programmer, she has to get some measure of credit royalties for most of the good things in my life. She’s the reason I still retain a vague glimmer of sanity thanks to computer games, she’s the reason I have a potentially marketable degree (If I can ever find a market), she’s the reason I developed an analytical mind from trying to figure out how computers worked (or more accurately why they didn’t so I could fix them and go back to playing TIE Fighter, Ultima or Planescape Torment as quickly as possible) and she’s the reason I spontaneously invent new swear words whenever code I’m writing doesn’t work.

    Madam, I salute you!


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