Trolls Target Female Scientist

Online commentators diminish the work of Katie Boumann
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2019 2:50 PM CDT
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Katie Boumann gives a presentation at TEDx Talks in 2016.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – Katie Boumann's rise to scientific stardom came with a downside: online trolls who claimed her work was really done by a man, CNN reports. The 29-year-old MIT graduate helped create the algorithms and imaging process that allowed scientists to produce the first-ever image of a black hole on Wednesday. Cue the Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube users who diminished her work or said Andrew Chael, a white male scientist on the project, was the real mastermind. One YouTube video was called "Woman Does 6% of the Work but Gets 100% of the Credit: Black Hole Photo," per NBC News, while Twitter and Reddit posts claimed Chael created "850,000 of the 900,000 lines of code that were written in the historic black-hole image algorithm!"

Enter Chael, who tweets that there are no "850,000 lines of code"—try "about 68,000 lines in the current software, and I don't care how many of those I personally authored." Chael adds that he is openly gay, another demographic underrepresented in STEM. "Once I realized that many online commentators were using my name and image to advance a sexist agenda to claim that Katie's leading role in our global team was invented, I felt I should say something to make it clear I rejected that view," he tells CNN. In truth it took a "massive, cross-disciplinary group" to create the black hole image, notes the Washington Post—a view fully supported by Boumann herself. "No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe," she writes on Facebook. (Read more black hole stories.)

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