Trolls harass a scientist who helped photograph a black hole



It's so easy to be excited about Katie Bouman. She is a 29-year-old computer scientist whose joy at seeing a black hole for the first time was captured in a photo that warmed the hearts of the world.

Bouman soon an associate professor at Caltech, led one of four teams tasked with turning data from half a ton of hard drives into an image that ricocheted around the world Wednesday.

Even with a photo just there On our screens, understanding something bigger than our solar system and 6.5 billion times more massive than our Sun was still almost impossible. But the joy is easy for humans to understand – and this perfectly synchronized image of her with her hands on her mouth has trained us.

A Twitter account associated with his alma mater, MIT, was one of the first to commend her for the work done. saying"Three years ago, Katie Bouman, a student at MIT, led the creation of a new algorithm intended to produce the very first image of a black hole. Today, this image has been published. The account related to the 2016 story that Bouman was developing an algorithm for the project. But if you quickly read Twitter, in the light of Sauron's thousand eyes, you might have deduced – like many of them – that MIT said that its only algorithm had led to the creation of this image. (They have since posted more tweets highlighting that Bouman and his work were part of a collaboration.)

People have become acquainted. Journalist Flora Graham compared a picture of Bouman with some of the hard drives used in the project, an image of Margaret Hamilton, a computer scientist whose code was crucial for Apollo missions. Congratulations and Bouman's popularity accelerated. For some people, it was easier to relate to a delighted human face than to two hundred smaller smiling faces and names.

After a few hours, the Internet's well of darkness began to pull it. Her phone started receiving so many messages that she had to turn it off, according to The New York Times. Someone repeatedly set up fake Twitter accounts on his behalf. The next day, the Time published an article entitled "How did Katie Bouman become the face of the black hole project?" The edge contacted Bouman for a comment, but a representative of MIT said The edge that Bouman did not speak to the press at the moment.

It's wonderful to be recognized for your work. But it must also be uncomfortable to get in the limelight and be invited to make a final bow for your main role when you were part of a set.

In response to this attention, Bouman wrote in an article on Facebook: "No algorithm or anyone created this image, it needed the incredible talent of a team of scientists from around the world and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods and analytical techniques needed to achieve this seemingly impossible feat. It is truly an honor and I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you all. "

It's the Internet; things got worse. In what can only be described as a sexist scavenger hunt, people started to look at her work to see how much she really contributed to the project, which propelled it to an unknown reputation. The trolls focused on one of his colleagues, Andrew Chael, who was listed on GitHub as a lead developer for one of the algorithms revealing the black hole, and began broadcasting his photo. Chael had none.

"It was obviously people upset by the fact that a woman became the face of this story and who decided:" I will find someone who reflects my story instead, "said Chael. The Washington Post.

In addition to Twitter, trolls have posted videos on YouTube, spreading rumors about his work and creating fake accounts on Instagram, targeting Bouman and Chael. As Ben Collins told NBC channel, "the situation has brought to light the vitriol that women continue to face on the Internet and the continued vulnerability of major Internet platforms to trolling campaigns."

It's not just an online trend. Women scientists are less cited than their male colleagues. They have a harder time getting their work published in well-known journals, including flagship products Science and Nature. They are probably paid less than their peers (a 2013 study found that women working in the field of physics and astronomy were paid 40% less than men). And they are more likely to face harassment at work.

Internet does not exist in a vacuum; One of the reasons some posters revealed that Bouman was immediately suspicious was related to his gender. A number of eminent men, including Alessandro Strumia, a former physicist at CERN who was distraught, said that women were not discriminated against in the scientific field – they just do not like ability to do so. This argument reinforces the idea that women do not belong to science or can not really do the job. So women like Bouman must be fake, continues this distorted line of thinking.

This particular problem will not go away after this news cycle, although there are some glimpses of positive change in the scientific community. The researchers are protesting subsidy processes that heavily fund male-led projects, and scientific societies are reforming their policies on sexual harassment.

But part of the problem is that Bouman has become a syncdoche for the work of a huge team. Science is being scaled up now, allowing us to start answering questions our ancestors would never have dreamed of. These responses are the result of the combined efforts of inspirational personalities such as Katie Bouman, Andrew Chael, Shep Doeleman, Kazu Akiyama and their more than 200 other colleagues. It's hard to keep 215 names and faces in your head. It is easy to remember a delighted face on a photo.

It is wonderful that we have heard the story of Bouman. It's awful that people are attacking Bouman's credibility because his story has been told. And his also true she herself does not bear the full weight of this incredible scientific work on her shoulders.

To say that she was part of a larger team does not diminish her work, nor downplay her participation in what is already a historic project. Highlighting the achievements of a brilliant and enthusiastic scientist also does not diminish the contribution of the 214 other people who worked on the project. But what is it? is This represents for a scientist a different model from the one with which most of us grew up. This could mean a lot for some kids – maybe kids who look like it – to inspire them to study the wonders of the Universe.

Internet can be dark. it can be heavy it could be full of garbage. But only black holes can make the light disappear. Bouman has a good start in her career – we'll be lucky to see what she does next.


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