This Year's Nobel Prize in Physics Mixes 2 Research Fields — And Politics - Are there too many old white men receiving Nobel prizes?

Barnard

kiwifarms.net


The Nobel Prize in physics this year has gone to two very different research threads — and danced around some big societal issues, even as it celebrates distinguished work.

The award was split to honor both cosmology research exploring dark matter and the discovery of planets orbiting other stars. But the Nobel Prize is awarded to individual researchers, and that's where things seem to have gotten a little sticky this year. (The Nobel Prize has been political in plenty of other years as well, and it's hardly surprising that politics has again entered the arena in 2019.) On both sides of the honor, people have raised concerns about who was and was not recognized, and what that says about modern science.

"When we ask these kinds of questions, it's not that these people didn't deserve it, but who else aren't we talking about that might have deserved it," Kalpana Shankar, a professor of information and communication studies at University College Dublin in Ireland, told Space.com. "Often, people who should get credit for it haven't, and Nobels and other major prizes are not immune to the politics of that."

This year's Nobel Prize in physics is a little strange from first glance, in that it recognizes two quite different research topics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel, joined the two research threads of cosmology and exoplanets by honoring what it described as "contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth's place in the cosmos."

It's poetic, but it's perhaps not what you would expect from the Academy.

And Nobel Prizes go to individual, living scientists, not research topics. So this year, the award was presented with one-half of the purse going to James Peebles, a cosmologist at Princeton University who has studied dark matter; and the other half being split between Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, two astronomers based at the University of Geneva and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. who discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star.

Let's take the first half first. Peebles began his research on theoretical physical cosmology in the mid-1960s, searching for clues to what shaped the universe right after the Big Bang. He found those clues in the cosmic microwave background (often nicknamed the baby picture of the universe), which shows small spatial differences in temperature.

The Academy puts together a scientific background paper exploring the members' reasoning for the award. In this year's document, the committee wrote that a 1965 paper Peebles wrote positing that dark matter is necessary for galaxy formation marked "the moment when cosmology embarks on its way to become a science of precision and a tool to discover new physics."

Scientists who have been exploring the concepts typically called dark matter and dark energy — two mysterious phenomena that make up the vast majority of the universe — have been on bettors' lists for the Nobel in physics for years.

But the name most frequently suggested was that of Vera Rubin, an astronomer who died in 2016 and whose work is referenced once in the scientific background paper's exploration of Peebles' work.

For years prior to her death, Nobel pundits chalked up the omission to the committee's tendency to favor experimental research over theoretical work, but this year, theory seems to have triumphed, and that contrast is striking.

"While I hope to have a long distinguished career like Jim Peebles has had, it's a shame that the Nobel Prize committee brazenly refused to give Vera Rubin the prize for finding the first concrete evidence of dark matter, and now she's dead and ineligible to receive it forever," Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an astrophysicist and women's studies professor at the University of New Hampshire, wrote in an email to Space.com.

"Meanwhile, the men who led the team that discovered cosmic acceleration, often referred to as "dark energy," won it years ago, while she was still alive," Prescod-Weinstein continued. "The bar for women to receive the prize in cosmology and particle physics seems almost infinitely higher than it is for men."

Grumbles about the award and Rubin's snub apparently grew loud enough for Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, to weigh in on Twitter. "I too wish that this would have come earlier so that Dr. Rubin could have been included," he wrote today. "Her work has fundamentally changed how we think of the universe."

Only three women have ever won the Nobel Prize in physics, and each has shared the honor with two male colleagues: Marie Curie in 1903 for work on radiation, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 for work on nuclear structures and Donna Strickland last year for work on optical lasers. Scientists of color are even more overwhelmingly absent among laureates.

The winners reflect the history of how systems of power in science traditionally benefit white men, whether purposefully or accidentally. "We don't know the politics behind why people are chosen, we just know that over and over, women [and] people of color get written out of the story," Shankar said.

5hYNny6wb4cQwMisBTHjck-650-80.jpg

An artist's depiction of the planet 51 Pegasi b orbiting its star.


Sometimes, they are literally written out of the story, and the second half of this year's Nobel recognition serves indirectly as an eerie reminder of that reality.

Mayor and Queloz were honored for discovering a planet dubbed 51 Pegasi b, which they described in a paper published in 1995. It wasn't the first exoplanet discovery — those planets orbited a pulsar and were much stranger on all fronts.

Instead, 51 Pegasi b was the first planet discovered orbiting the sort of body we actually think of as a star, rather than orbiting the remains of a star that has exploded. Mayor and Queloz examined the light emitted by the star in question and measured tiny changes in that light caused by the planet's gravity, which created slight wiggles in the star's distance from Earth.

By now, scientists have spotted more than 4,000 planets orbiting other stars, so the academy would always have needed to be judicious in selecting individuals in the field to honor. Two names sometimes offered among that group are Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler, who soon corroborated Mayor and Queloz's observations and turned out to have already gathered similar data about 51 Pegasi. Given an interpretation that allowed for massive planets orbiting close to their stars, Marcy and Butler quickly identified 70 of the first 100 exoplanets discovered, according to NASA.

Marcy and Butler's research had also been floated in Nobel prediction pools and is mentioned three times in the scientific background paper's discussion of the research conducted by Mayor and Queloz. But they were not included in the award citation. And that could be for a particular reason: In 2015, Marcy's institution investigated nearly a decade of sexual misconduct accusations against him. Marcy resigned when material from the investigation was made public.

"Given that the prize went to two researchers in exoplanets, it seems that part of the story here was that they snubbed Geoff Marcy, who reportedly engaged in sexual misconduct towards students for decades," Prescod-Weinstein wrote to Space.com. "I believe the victims, some of whom I count as friends. While I'm glad that the committee is showing some ethical standards regarding which men will be recognized, perhaps they can also consider the ethics of persistently ignoring women's contributions to the field as well as those of men who aren't white."

The complications posed by both aspects of this year's Nobel Prize in physics speak to ongoing systemic challenges in the science community in general and within individual disciplines. Rubin faced systemic obstacles directed at her gender throughout her career.

Rubin persisted, but research shows that plenty of women and people of color leave science because of discrimination, harrassment and other issues of power and bias. Each of those would-be researchers had just as much individual potential as Nobel winners do at the beginning of their careers, but their work will never be published, much less considered for this type of accolade.

"This has become normalized that old, white men are the ones that get credit, especially the big prizes and things like that," Shankar said. "I think that we need to talk about the fact that when three older men win an award, who didn't get represented in that award."

- End of Article -
So are there too many ugly white men getting the Nobel prize? I don't care, I'm just triggered that it was the Mayor and Queloz wankers who received it, rather than the discoverers of the actual first known exoplanets. What, so they don't count just because it's a pulsar? Don't pulsar lives matter too?
 

rocknrollmartian

kiwifarms.net
"Rubin persisted, but research shows that plenty of women and people of color leave science because of discrimination, harrassment and other issues of power and bias. Each of those would-be researchers had just as much individual potential as Nobel winners do at the beginning of their careers, but their work will never be published, much less considered for this type of accolade."

doesn't really mesh with this

"'We need to wash out the "weed-them-out orientation" in the classroom,' says Mary Fox, co-director at the Center for Study of Women, Science and Technology at Georgia Tech. 'That is not a hospitable climate for students, we have to teach students to move along rather than have them sink or swim.'" source

PICK ONE
 

Shoggoth

kiwifarms.net
research shows that plenty of women and people of color leave science because of discrimination, harrassment and other issues of power and bias.
Good. We need more gatekeeping. No need to waste resources on those who can't and won't.
Each of those would-be researchers had just as much individual potential as Nobel winners do at the beginning of their careers
That's bullshit and reeks of tabula rasa, everyone is equal, different outcomes are only the result of discrimination, all that bullshit. Really interesting and disappointing to see scientists become pagans.
 

Liber Pater

kiwifarms.net
LMAO at the study they linked about "women and POCs being harassed out of science." It was a self-report survey conducted on participants recruited in large part from a "Women in Science" idpol group. Not only did they choose their sample in a manner extremely likely to produce selection bias (i.e. by recruiting from a pool that has essentially already been pre-selected for a propensity to interpret actions as harassment, report discrimination, etc), but the study reports these claims at face-value.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish writing the conclusion to my groundbreaking new study examining sexual discrimination against short men (based on surveys of users on incels.co, of course).
 

RetardedCat

javascript is the future, Josh.
kiwifarms.net
From the title I knew it was going to be a bunch of women complaining they're not getting recognized enough.
And of course it is a bunch of lazy women complaining that they're not getting a fucking participation trophy for simply existing. Just fucking get into science as much as men and you'll have a chance at being nominated and maybe selected. It's literally a stupid simple solution to a stupid simple problem.
But whining about inequality works better these days so why work.
 

Positron

Subconsciously Suberogatory
True & Honest Fan
kiwifarms.net
The winners reflect the history of how systems of power in science traditionally benefit white men, whether purposefully or accidentally.
Go fuck yourselves. Is this fucking Nature?

it's a shame that the Nobel Prize committee brazenly refused to give Vera Rubin the prize for finding the first concrete evidence of dark matter,
Because she was not. The observation -- that stars in the outer part of the Galaxy is moving slowly, as if something were dragging them -- and number crunching that pointed out the existence of Dark Matter was done in the early 20th century, by Fritz Zwicky, a WHITE MAN.
 

Yotsubaaa

Happy Halloween!
kiwifarms.net
Because she was not. The observation -- that stars in the outer part of the Galaxy is moving slowly, as if something were dragging them -- and number crunching that pointed out the existence of Dark Matter was done in the early 20th century, by Fritz Zwicky, a WHITE MAN.
Heck, that's literally the very first thing they mention on the page they hyperlinked for "concrete evidence of dark matter":
Literally the very first sentence said:
The origins of our understanding of dark matter stretch back all the way to the 1930s, when Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky first started making X-ray observations of the Coma Cluster, a massive agglomeration of galaxies near the Milky Way...
 

Shoggoth

kiwifarms.net
What does this mean? I'm curious.
Running the risk of insulting any pagan larpers on these forums, pagans live in a world insulated from reality by spirits, furies and emotions. Things don't happen because of causality, but because of some god/spirit's capriciousness. Monotheism was a step away from that world view into a world of laws and order.
So sometimes, when someone displays that level of magical thinking, I label them a pagan, as they're only a few steps away from sacrificing virgins to make it rain or appease the sun god.
See modern climate movement for further references.
When they discriminate against white people and/or to help women or colored people, they sacrifice them on the altars of their gods, even if metaphorically so. Same when some idiot makes a gaff and insults "the feelings of black people". Every one of them? you hurt the symbol object they put up for it. Heretic.
TLDR - religious hysteria not rooted in law / causality is pretty pagan tbqh
 

Clop

kiwifarms.net
The winners reflect the history of how systems of power in science traditionally benefit white men, whether purposefully or accidentally. "We don't know the politics behind why people are chosen, we just know that over and over, women [and] people of color get written out of the story," Shankar said.
Marie Curie won the Nobel twice, in two different goddamned fields. This bullshit is a goddamned insult to her work as a scientist. Nobody has ever been a gatekeeper to Nobel prices, nor any other achievement, ever. The reason a woman doesn't get a fucking Nobel is because she either did not do the work, or she was fucking dead by the time it was time to hand them over. It is a goddamned lie that a woman was "written out" of any story. It has not happened a single goddamned time;

Rosalind Franklin did not take the goddamned photo and was dead before the Nobel was handed out so she wouldn't have been eligible anyway, and Ada Lovelace was an aristocrat with flights of fancy who didn't contribute a damn thing to the actual science part of computer science. If anything, the black hole bullshit proves that humanity's ready and willing to push over men overboard if a woman has even glanced at a project because some people have an axe to grind with how most scientists will always be men. If you don't like it as a woman, do more science.

Here's another fun fact: Science doesn't benefit white men. Science benefits fucking everyone. It's pure merit that makes science happen and that in turn benefits the whole of human race.
 

Shoggoth

kiwifarms.net
Marie Curie won the Nobel twice, in two different goddamned fields. This bullshit is a goddamned insult to her work as a scientist. Nobody has ever been a gatekeeper to Nobel prices, nor any other achievement, ever. The reason a woman doesn't get a fucking Nobel is because she either did not do the work, or she was fucking dead by the time it was time to hand them over. It is a goddamned lie that a woman was "written out" of any story. It has not happened a single goddamned time;

Rosalind Franklin did not take the goddamned photo and was dead before the Nobel was handed out so she wouldn't have been eligible anyway, and Ada Lovelace was an aristocrat with flights of fancy who didn't contribute a damn thing to the actual science part of computer science. If anything, the black hole bullshit proves that humanity's ready and willing to push over men overboard if a woman has even glanced at a project because some people have an axe to grind with how most scientists will always be men. If you don't like it as a woman, do more science.

Here's another fun fact: Science doesn't benefit white men. Science benefits fucking everyone. It's pure merit that makes science happen and that in turn benefits the whole of human race.
But if science is meritorious that's too close to implying reality is meritorious and outcomes are a "judgment" of your merit. Losers don't like being judged.
 

Alec Benson Leary

Creator of Asperchu
Christorical Figure
kiwifarms.net
Science is and always has been political. Anyone who has gone through a grad program (in any kind of field, hard science or not) and had to subject themselves to the mercy of egomaniacal professors knows this.

But of course these people want a solution of quotas, as if that'll suddenly make everyone start playing nice and fair.
 

Barnard

kiwifarms.net
Go fuck yourselves. Is this fucking Nature?

Because she was not. The observation -- that stars in the outer part of the Galaxy is moving slowly, as if something were dragging them -- and number crunching that pointed out the existence of Dark Matter was done in the early 20th century, by Fritz Zwicky, a WHITE MAN.
Heck, that's literally the very first thing they mention on the page they hyperlinked for "concrete evidence of dark matter":
I'm glad you guys mention Fritz Zwicky, because he deserves recognition as the pioneer in this matter and generally in the field of extragalactic study. The article linked by @Yotsubaaa attempts to diminish his impact for some reason, stating that "he didn't think much about it", but that's can't be right, seeing as he published more than one paper concerning the apparent discrepancies in galactic masses in Coma cluster, and his work was followed up on by one Sinclair Smith who measured the Virgo cluster. The whole affair definitely left a significant impression on the community, but it was controversial and astrophysicists weren't yet ready to commonly accept the idea of dark matter. More on this can be found in A History of Dark Matter by Gianfranco Bertone and Dan Hooper.

I'm also going to quote the above book re: the 1970's dark matter "revolution" and the importance of Vera Rubin's paper and leave conclusions to the reader:

In the 1960s, Kent Ford developed an image tube spectrograph that Vera Rubin and he used to perform spectroscopic observations of the Andromeda Galaxy. The observations of the M31 rotation curve Rubin and Ford published in 1970 [267] represented a step forward in terms of quality. Their optical data extended out to 110 arcminutes away from the galaxy's center, and were compatible with the radio measurements obtained previously by Morton Roberts in 1966 [257].

It was also in 1970 that the first explicit statements began to appear arguing that additional mass was needed in the outer parts of some galaxies, based on comparisons of the rotation curves predicted from photometry and those measured from 21 cm observations. In the appendix of his seminal 1970 paper [126], Ken Freeman compared the radius at which the rotation curve was predicted to peak, under the assumption of an exponential disk with a scale length fit to photometric observations, to the observed 21 cm rotation curve. This combination of theoretical modelling and radio observations extending beyond the optical disk allowed Freeman to reach a striking conclusion. He found that for M33 (based on data summarised in Ref. [62]) and NGC 300 (based on data from Ref. [287]), the observed rotation curves peaked at larger radii than predicted, and – prompted by discussions with Roberts 4 – concluded that:


if [the data] are correct, then there must be in these galaxies additional matter which is undetected, either optically or at 21 cm. Its mass must be at least as large as the mass of the detected galaxy, and its distribution must be quite different from the exponential distribution which holds for the optical galaxy.
[...]

This is perhaps the first convincing (or at least convinced) claim of a mass discrepancy in galaxies.

In 1978, Albert Bosma published the results of his PhD thesis [60], including the radio observation of the velocity fields and corresponding rotation curves of 25 galaxies. This work convincingly proved that most of these objects had flat rotation curves out to the largest observed radius, which again exceeded the optical size of the galaxies, therefore demonstrating that their mass continued to grow beyond the region occupied by the stars and gas (see also Fig. 5).
A few months later, Rubin, Ford and Norbert Thonnard published optical rotation curves for ten high-luminosity spiral galaxies and found that they were flat out to the outermost measured radius [268]. This work has become one of the most well-known and widely cited in the literature, despite the fact that the optical measurements did not extend to radii as large as those probed by radio observations, thus leaving open the possibility that galaxies may not have dark matter halos, as pointed out, for example, by Agris J. Kalnajs in 1983 (see the discussion at the end of Ref. [150]) and by Stephen Kent in 1986 [175]. Rubin, Ford and Thonnard themselves acknowledged the credit that was due to the preceding analyses:

Roberts and his collaborators deserve credit for first calling attention to flat rotation curves. [...] These results take on added importance in conjunction with the suggestion of Einasto, Kaasik, and Saar (1974) and Ostriker, Peebles and Yahil (1974) that galaxies contain massive halos extending to large r.
(post edited to include a second quote about their later work)
 
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Splendid

Castigat ridendo mores
True & Honest Fan
kiwifarms.net
I agree that Ada Lovelace didn't really contribute much. I think she's been hyped up a lot largely due to the fact that she was a woman scientist in the 19th century.
I do think it's bullshit that Grace Hopper, the first modern computer programmer and the inventor of compilers and a fucking admiral never gets the respect she deserves. I guess the popular consciousness/textbook publishers only have room for one female computer scientist and they've decided to more or less invent one instead of recognizing a real one.
Yeah, you might have to admit to some children that women were rarely scientists until the late 19th century and it was still uncommon until the second half of the 20th, but it's better to teach them the truth.
 
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