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Professor Joan Roughgarden is no ordinary biologist - and no ordinary trans woman either - though there are quite a few high academic achievers within the world wide community of gender variant, transgender and transsexual people.

Joan is perhaps best known for her 2004 book “Evolution’s Rainbow” - an academic work, written in a language accessible to the public. In it she challenges Darwin’s theory of Sexual Selection.

Her subsequent book, “Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist”, published in 2006, showed that her willingness to take on controversial subjects was, if anything, stronger and more confident ... despite the inevitable way in which her critics responded to the first.

This interview was originally recorded for another channel in the summer of 2007, but hasn't been aired on Just Plain Sense before. In the course of conversation Joan reveals an unexpected debt of gratitude to former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and talks about her biologist's view of sexual orientation.

Note that this show features a new, alternative, signature tune that I'm trying out. I'd appreciate listeners' feedback on whether you like it or prefer the traditional one. The theme is "New Ways of Seeing", composed and performed by Richard Harvey in 1978

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March 24th 2009 is Ada Lovelace Day – an initiative which we talked about in a previous episode. At the time of writing around 1500 people have signed an online pledge to produce a Blog, Podcast, Video, etc... about a woman in technology whom they admire. This episode is about one such woman.

Much of the technology we take for granted today is only possible because of the ability to design and prototype computer chips quickly and cheaply. At the beginning of the 1970’s the process was far from easy. It took time; It was prone to errors; and custom chip design was not economical for many kinds of product.

Professor Lynn Conway’s best known contribution, 30 years ago, was to invent and successfully promote a radical new approach which made the chip design process straightforward and affordable. It is arguable that some of the best known businesses and many of the products we nowadays take for granted would not have been possible without Lynn’s historical contribution.

In this interview Lynn talks via a transatlantic Skype call about her vision and the things that thrill her about engineering. You can also read her VLSI Archive and about some of her other work and challenges here.

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Two weeks from now the United States will witness a historic event that some of us probably doubted we would ever see. When Barack Obama is sworn in as America’s first Black President few would contest the symbolism. But how are Americans seeing it, now that the election night euphoria has died down?

How much expectation is there on the new man? Can it be realised? Black men may take plenty of encouragement, but what about other minorities?

To ask these questions, and to look particularly at the issues for LGB and Trans people, I hooked up with Internet broadcaster Ethan StPierre in Massachusetts. I learned, for instance, how a last gasp move by George Bush, aimed at women's choice on abortion, could go on to have effects for trans people too.

To hear Ethan's own broadcasts visit Trans FM online.

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