Last week, the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT) represented the first ever direct picture of a black hole about 50 light years away from us in the space. Prior to the image, only artistic illustrations were available to describe the strange characteristics that warp the spacetime by the power of their huge masses, creating such gravitational force that not even light can escape. Soon after the EHT introduction, MIT tweeted a picture of Katie Bouman, a 29-year-old computer scientist whose work was pivotal to the project, through the moment the first black hole was processed. It was a "eureka" moment for all thousands of people on Earth including me.
I was also so so happy to hear about Katie's contribution to the project her work has encouraged thousands of young women with STEAM dreams. In the next couple of days, I read an article about some sexist internet mob discrediting Katie's work because she is a WOMAN in STEM. People began going over her work to perceive the amount she'd really devoted to the project that skyrocketed her to unasked-for fame. Even in 2019, women often don't feel welcome in scientific fields and the response to Bouman's post unveils hatred many women scientists face all the time.
"No one algorithm or person made this image," Bouman wrote on Facebook. "It required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat. It has been truly an honor, and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you all." Her reply was emphasized how large scientific projects happen through cooperative collaboration. As many have pointed out, her response yields to light the false glorification of the "lone genius" metaphor in STEM.
The likelihood that Bouman may have been a noteworthy player in the black hole discovery also appeared to have profoundly upset right-wing trolls, possibly because they felt their status is undermined by women like her. Later, Bouman and her colleagues clarified, in no uncertain terms, that the black hole image was a team effort. In whole, more than 200 scientists worked on it from all over the world. Throughout history, women's roles in major scientific discoveries have been unfairly downplayed or disregarded. For instance, Rosalind Franklin's contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Or the story of Katherine Johnson, the black NASA mathematician whose work in calculating key orbital moves in the early days of manned spaceflight went uncelebrated for decades.
Women often face harassment on infamous social media platforms in professions like journalism and politics, where they are in the public eye which needs to be stopped. There are still too many people who don't want to see a woman in science succeed and it proves that no matter how smart our smartphone gets or we go to Moon, Mars and beyond, some people would always have a narrow-minded view about women in STEM.