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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Sexist Trolls Doubting Black Hole Researcher Katie Bouman Need to Learn to Code | Black Hole - VICE

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Last week, fans of cool astronomical phenomena (read: almost everyone) rejoiced as an international team of scientists released the first ever image of a black hole, continues VICE.

Photo: VICE
For the astrophysicists, software engineers, philosophers, and mathematicians who worked on the Event Horizon Telescope that captured the image, the announcement was an unprecedented milestone.

Their excitement was perhaps best embodied by a photo of one computer scientist on the Event Horizon Telescope team, Katie Bouman, who hid her beaming smile with her hands as she looked at the monumental rendering. Bouman had a lot to smile about—the image was created using petabytes of data that were stitched together using CHIRP, an algorithm that Bouman worked on. And Bouman had long served as a public face for the computer imaging aspect of the Event Horizon Telescope, delivering a TED Talk on the project in 2016.

But within a day of the announcement, online harassers created fake Instagram accounts for Bouman, started angry threads on Reddit and Hacker News asserting that she hadn’t done as much to help the project as she was getting credit for, and produced lengthy YouTube tirades, all with the aim of discrediting her contributions to the project...

In scientific fields that thrive on data, sexism can pass as legitimate when couched in the language of cold, unfeeling numbers and percentage points. But anyone with even a basic understanding of modern computer science should quickly realize how dangerous and plainly wrong these trolls are when they weaponize metadata from public Github repositories. 
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Source: VICE