This is not a real picture of today's eclipse. Photo: A4size-ska / DeviantArt
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This is not a picture of today's eclipse

Don't trust everything you read.

A total eclipse was visible from the UK today, for the first time since 1999. (And the last until the next one, due in 2090.) Many, many people are currently tweeting the above picture, claiming it's a picture taken by astronauts on the International Space Station.

Even New Scientist tweeted it (though they've now deleted that), and ITV posted it as well (before also deleting the page from their site). This is because it is obviously not real. It's a 2009 illustration by a DeviantArt user called A4size-ska.

There are two things that give this away. The first is the sheer unreality of it - it looks like CGI, and the spheres of the Moon and Sun are significantly larger than they truly appear from the Earth (or near the Earth). The shadow this eclipse casts is also stretched out, rather than a neat circle.

Secondly, we know what an eclipse looks like from space. It looks like this:

Photo: CNES

That's a picture of the shadow cast by the Moon on the Earth during the 11 August 1999 solar eclipse. It was taken by the crew of the Mir space station, during one of its last few missions before it was decommissioned and allowed to burn up and fall back to Earth in 2001.

However, it's understandable that some people might have reached for something a bit spectacular, as the view of the eclipse this morning for much of us in the UK (including from the NS offices) was this:

PS: A further public service announcement is necessary, to make clear you should ignore anything Ukip MEP Roger Helmer claims about climate change and/or the Sun, today or any day:

The man's a fool.

Ian Steadman is a staff science and technology writer at the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @iansteadman.

Photo: Getty
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The science and technology committee debacle shows how we're failing women in tech

It would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.

Five days after Theresa May announced, in her first Prime Minister’s Questions after the summer recess, that she was "particularly keen to address the stereotype about women in engineering", an all-male parliamentary science and technology committee was announced. You would laugh if it wasn’t all so depressing.

It was only later, after a fierce backlash against the selection, that Conservative MP Vicky Ford was also appointed to the committee. I don’t need to say that having only one female voice represents more than an oversight: it’s simply unacceptable. And as if to rub salt into the wound, at the time of writing, Ford has still not been added to the committee list on parliament's website.

To the credit of Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP who was elected chair of the committee in July, he said that he didn't "see how we can proceed without women". "It sends out a dreadful message at a time when we need to convince far more girls to pursue Stem [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] subjects," he added. But as many people have pointed out already, it’s the parties who nominate members, and that’s partly why this scenario is worrying. The nominations are a representation of those who represent us.

Government policy has so far completely failed to tap into the huge pool of talented women we have in this country – and there are still not enough women in parliament overall.

Women cannot be considered an afterthought, and in the case of the science and technology committee they have quite clearly been treated as such. While Ford will be a loud and clear voice on the committee, one person alone can’t address the major failings of government policy in improving conditions for women in science and technology.

Study after study has shown why it is essential for the UK economy that women participate in the labour force. And in Stem, where there is undeniably a strong anti-female bias and yet a high demand for people with specialist skills, it is even more pressing.

According to data from the Women’s Engineering Society, 16 per cent of UK Stem undergraduates are female. That statistic illustrates two things. First, that there is clearly a huge problem that begins early in the lives of British women, and that this leads to woefully low female representation on Stem university courses. Secondly, unless our society dramatically changes the way it thinks about women and Stem, and thereby encourages girls to pursue these subjects and careers, we have no hope of addressing the massive shortage in graduates with technical skills.

It’s quite ironic that the Commons science and technology committee recently published a report stating that the digital skills gap was costing the UK economy £63bn a year in lost GDP.

Read more: Why does the science and technology committee have no women – and a climate sceptic?

Female representation in Stem industries wasn’t addressed at all in the government’s Brexit position paper on science, nor was it dealt with in any real depth in the digital strategy paper released in April. In fact, in the 16-page Brexit position paper, the words "women", "female" and "diversity" did not appear once. And now, with the appointment of the nearly all-male committee, it isn't hard to see why.

Many social issues still affect women, not only in Stem industries but in the workplace more broadly. From the difficulties facing mothers returning to work after having children, to the systemic pay inequality that women face across most sectors, it is clear that there is still a vast amount of work to be done by this government.

The committee does not represent the scientific community in the UK, and is fundamentally lacking in the diversity of thought and experience necessary to effectively scrutinise government policy. It leads you to wonder which century we’re living in. Quite simply, this represents a total failure of democracy.

Pip Wilson is a tech entrepreneur, angel investor and CEO of amicable