Today I found myself attending a talk on mortar propellants. It was delivered by a shy young woman who looked to be no older than a high school senior- she looked like a babysitter you’d hire to stay at home with the kid while you treated the wife unit to a night out on the town. Yet she was an expert in mortar shell propellants.

Next, I attended a talk on flare compositions delivered by a tiny woman who could barely see above the podium.

I rounded the day off by attending a talk by a woman who presented her results on igniter design and in developing a new explosive propellant manufacturing process. During the Q&A, my questions on ignition mechanisms were answered by yet another woman who was exceedingly knowlegeable in this field.

What I have noticed is that the gun and rocket propellant R&D field is populated with women to a much greater degree than the industrial organic or organometallic chemistry waters in which I normally swim.

Before you fire a rude comment alleging some sexist malfeasance, please understand that I was raised by a single mother as the eldest of 5 kids. That, and having witnessed the birth of my child, I have no doubt whatsoever about the robustness and Ability of women.

That women do this isn’t news. What is noteworthy is the extent to which my ignorance remains so great at age 51. My caveman misconception was that explosives chemistry would not appeal to women. I had mistakenly and foolishly assumed that a career with explosives was largely a male domain and driven by male fascination with power. Holy cats. I was quite mistaken.

I seem to be wrong about  a lot of things these days.