Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-Dutch-American feminist and atheist activist, writer and politician who is known for her views critical of female genital mutilation and Islam. She wrote the screenplay for Theo van Gogh’s movie Submission, after which she and the director both received death threats, and the director was murdered. The daughter of the Somali politician and opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse, she is a founder of the women’s rights organisation the AHA Foundation. When she was eight, Hirsi Ali’s family left Somalia for Saudi Arabia, then Ethiopia, and eventually settled in Kenya. She sought and obtained political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992, under circumstances that later became the centre of a political controversy. In 2003 she was elected a member of the House of Representatives (the lower house of the Dutch parliament), representing the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). A political crisis surrounding the potential stripping of her Dutch citizenship led to her resignation from the parliament, and led indirectly to the fall of the second Balkenende cabinet in 2006.
Shakuntala Devi is a calculating prodigy who was born in Bangalore, India. Her father worked in a “Brahmin circus” as a trapeze and tightrope performer, and later as a lion tamer and a human cannonball. Her calculating gifts first demonstrated themselves while she was doing card tricks with her father when she was three. They report she “beat” them by memorization of cards rather than by sleight of hand. By age six she demonstrated her calculation and memorization abilities at the University of Mysore. At the age of eight she had success at Annamalai University by doing the same. In 1977 she extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number mentally. She did this 12 seconds faster than the Univac-1108. On June 18, 1980 she demonstrated the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers 7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779 picked at random by the Computer Department of Imperial College, London. She answered the question in 28 seconds. However, this time is more likely the time for dictating the answer (a 26-digit number) than the time for the mental calculation (the time of 28 seconds was quoted on her own website). Her correct answer was 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730. This event is mentioned on page 26 of the 1995 Guinness Book of Records ISBN 0-553-56942-2. In 2006 she released a new book called In the Wonderland of Numbers with Orient Paperbacks which talks about a girl Neha and her fascination for numbers.
Lois McMaster Bujold is an American author of science fiction and fantasy works. Bujold is one of the most acclaimed writers in her field, having won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record. Her novella The Mountains of Mourning won both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award. In the fantasy genre, The Curse of Chalion won the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature and was nominated for the 2002 World Fantasy Award for best novel, and both her fourth Hugo Award and second Nebula Award were for Paladin of Souls. In 2011 she was awarded the Skylark Award. The bulk of Bujold’s works are part of three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion Series, and the Sharing Knife series.
Emily Hagins is an Austin based filmmaker who is most famous for directing the 2006 independent feature film Pathogen at the age of 12. Since her early childhood, Emily had always had an interest in film and filmmaking. She always had a keen interest in movies, and by second grade had earned the nickname, “The movie girl” by her classmates. Not long after reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, she saw Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and was inspired to make her own movies. She made 8 short films including It’s a Dog’s Life and a documentary about an independent film, CrazyInsane Productions’ Organic. At age 10 her short-films had drawn the interest of Harry Knowles, a critic with Ain’t It Cool News. He shared her short, Buddie vs. The Barbies I with director Cameron Crowe who found it “really funny”. At Butt-numb-a-thon 5 she saw her first zombie film, UNDEAD which inspired her to expand her repertoire.
Brea Colleen Grant is an American actress and writer who is best known for playing Daphne Millbrook in the NBC television series Heroes. She was born in Marshall, Texas, and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Her acting career includes credits in an episode of Cold Case, three episodes of Friday Night Lights, as “Junkie Girl” (uncredited) in Max Payne, and as “Rasha” in SciFi’s Battle Planet. Brea has also seen success in the world of comics. She created a comic book miniseries called We Will Bury You with her brother Zane Grant and artist Kyle Strahm. She continued her comic writing with the SuicideGirls comic miniseries, based on the pin-up Web site of the same name.
Gina Marie Trapani is an American tech blogger, web developer, and writer. Trapani founded the Lifehacker blog in January 2005, and led it until January 2009. She still writes a weekly column for Lifehacker. She co-hosts a netcast on the TWiT.tv network called This Week in Google with Leo Laporte and Jeff Jarvis. She also hosted twelve episodes of Work Smart, a weekly column, for Fast Company. Gina is currently leading development of a crowdsourcing platform (named ThinkUp) at Expert Labs. She has written two books and also writes for other publications including Harvard Business Online. Fast Company named her one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in 2009 and 2010, and Wired magazine awarded her its prestigious Rave Award in 2006. Trapani was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English/Writing from Marist College in 1997. Trapani received a Master of Science in Computer Information Science from Brooklyn College (City University of New York) in 1998. She resides in La Jolla, California.
Virginia Heffernan is an American journalist and cultural critic. She has worked as a staff writer for The New York Times — first as a TV critic, then as a magazine columnist, and then as an opinion writer. She has also worked as a senior editor for Harper’s, a founding editor of Talk, a TV critic for Slate, a fact checker for The New Yorker and a national correspondent for Yahoo News. Her most recent book, MAGIC AND LOSS: The Pleasures of the Internet, argues that the Internet is a “massive and collective work of art” and a “work in progress”, and that the suggested deterioration of attention spans in response to it is a myth. Heffernan is known as a playful, stylish and erudite writer; in 2014 Ben Yagoda in the Chronicle of Higher Education named her among his top candidates for “best living writer of English prose”, and she has been called “one of the mothers of the Internet”.