Saturday, March 30, 2019

Slate: We Annotated That Horrible Article About How Women Don’t Like Physics

Last fall, physicist Alessandro Strumia was suspended from CERN, birthplace of the Higgs boson, after he gave a lecture on why his field skews so male in which he argued that it’s about inherent ability, not discrimination. He was ultimately let go this month, but now he’s back in the press, being profiled in the Sunday Times, where he talks about his theories on gender and his disgruntlement that particle physics seem to have stagnated in the post-God-particle years (the story is paywalled but available via a free trail). The piece, and Strumia’s apparent befuddlement at the fallout his lecture received, has just a few problems. In the interest of scientific discourse, let’s examine the evidence:
1. The headline of the Sunday Times piece includes the words: “the data doesn’t lie—women don’t like physics.”
 
If you are wondering if this is a case of an engagement editor gone rogue in search of hate-clicks, the headline that ran in print was even worse: “My Big Bang Theory Is: Women Don’t Like Physics.” 
The “data” here, and throughout the article, seem to be the number of women who are in physics right now, and how often their papers are being cited right now. In the U.S., just 20 percent of undergraduate and doctoral degrees are awarded to women, according to a report released this month by the American Institute of Physics. This is like observing of a lifeless early Earth that the planet is simply fundamentally hostile to human beings, or of a pre–Niels Bohr human race that humans are simply not meant to understand the inner workings of atoms. Systems evolve.

More at Slate


PZ Myers writes:
We may anticipate being subjected to more of this drivel from Strumia in the future.
Strumia has apparently turned his lecture into a paper, which he hopes to have a peer-reviewed journal publish. “Whether he finds one ready to brave the inevitable backlash remains to be seen,” writes Conradi.
I would wonder what journal would stoop so low to publish that crap before I would be concerned about an imaginary “backlash”.
Maybe Quillette? It sounds perfect for them.

Pinkerite agrees - the claim that "it’s about inherent ability, not discrimination" is just sooo Quillette.

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