Name your child for success!

Shakespeare famously posed the question:
"What's in a name?"
The answer may actually be: quite a bit!

Your given name (and your family name, for that matter) likely contains a lot of subtle information about you and your history. For example, we often assume names correlate with gender (as I have in previous articles)... Except the gender identity of some common names has changed over history (examples here)! Your name may also correlate with your political affiliation or what job you have.

I recently wondered: do certain names correlate with brilliance or high intellectual achievement? 

To find out, I gathered a large dataset of full names from people with PhDs in science (from the IAU and AAAS), as well as the names of lawyers using several recent years of bar exam "pass lists" provided by WA, NY, and TX. In total I was able to easily (read: quickly) gather over 36,000 full names of scientists and lawyers!

With this corpus of highly educated names in hand, let's look at which are most common!

The most common names of scientists:

Right away you can see a dramatic trend: it's mostly dudes. In fact, of the top 100 most common names for scientists, only 14 are female!

The most common names of lawyers:

While mens names still dominate, there are definitely more women in top list. For comparison, of the top 100 most common names for lawyers, 50 are female! That difference is shocking to me.

The Dream of Spaceflight

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Me and fellow member of team "Gagarin", at Space Camp (Huntsville, AL) circa 2001
This past Friday during a test flight over the Mojave desert the privately funded SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one test pilot and severely injuring another. Combined with the destruction of a privately built Antares rocket during launch (thankfully nobody injured), it's been a hard week for the business of space.

Some worry these two accidents have been a damning setback to the dream. Here the dream I'm referring to is making space travel common, available to everyone. And to be clear, it's a LONG ways off... Currently it costs between $1 and $10 per lb to fly on commercial airlines (of course, we don't buy tickets by the lb, but its a round number). By comparison, launching something in to space is over 1000X more expensive, around $10,000 per lb. When private companies are able to make spaceflight an everyday reality, we'll be a lot closer to this dream.

Around 540 people have flown in space (and perhaps a few more if you believe militaries have flown secret missions). That's it! Fewer than 600 humans have ever left our world. Given that the World population is still increasing, I wondered:  Has the number of people who have flown in to space actually kept up with population growth?

In other words, even though it's insanely expensive to launch people, and very few have been fortunate enough to go, are we making any progress on the dream?