William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

What Could Feminist Physics Possibly Mean?

Did you hear what she said about Mary's feelings about Sue's relationship to physics?

Did you hear what she said about Mary’s feelings about Sue’s relationship to physics?

Saying “(Baby) Steps Toward Feminist Physics”, as did Barbara L. Whitten in her peer-reviewed paper of the same name in the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering—an honest-to-God actual academic publication, I swear—is like saying “Toward Yak Mathematics” or “Approaching Bittersweet Electrical Engineering.” Beginning with a non sequitur is a poor start, which is why Whitten has to spend the bulk of her article explaining just what “feminist physics” must mean.

Before we get to that, why pick on Whitten? Because she was cited by the Equity & Inclusion in Physics & Astronomy group who wrote an open letter to SCOTUS, in which occur these idiotic words:

We hope to push our community towards equity and inclusion so that the community of scientists more closely matches the makeup of humankind, because the process of scientific discovery is a human endeavor that benefits from removing prejudice against any race, ethnicity, or gender.

The very last thing physics needs is its members to “closely match the makeup on humankind.” What physics wants, what physics needs if it is to survive and be of any use or interest, is an extreme, elite minority that doesn’t even vaguely resemble the bulk of mankind. Choosing physicists based on race, sex, or, Lord help us, physical desires, is to guarantee the destruction of the field because, as is obvious, none of these characteristics has any bearing on the ability to do physics.

Imagine basketball teams made, nay, mandated to closely match the makeup of mankind. Who would pay to see them? Why, it wouldn’t be long before people stopped keeping score because wins and loses would be meaningless.

Say. Where else have we seen this? Skip it.

As proof of the utter irrelevance and destructive nature of “feminist physics” we return to Whitten. She starts with science which can be classed as “feminist” in outcome. Example: the “discovery that eight [not seven!] layers of sari cloth would reduce the population of V. cholerae in drinking water.” Realizing this is weak and knowing “the objects of inquiry” in physics are “not gendered”, she pushes on to quantum mechanics and the crack opened by measurement.

In short, measurement matters: the measurement apparatus interacts with the thing measured, which was always so but was not always realized until the small scale of QM forced people to think hard about what measurement means. Obviously, physicist builds their measurement apparatuses and design their experiments. “Sometimes,” Whitten says, “the gender, race, class, and other demographic characteristics of the experimenter can be clearly seen to be a factor in her choices.” This is so, especially in poorer experiments. Experiments should be designed to elucidate as efficiently as possible the phenomenon under study and not provide insight into the experimenter. There is no toehold for feminism here.

Whitten then pokes reductionism, but not very hard; she doesn’t even suggest a feminist alternative and is satisfied with the whispery intimation that reductionism is masculine (and therefore bad). She really comes into her own when she jettisons physics and asks instead for the study of the relation between physics and society. Aha! The definition is finally revealed: Feminist physics is feelings. She says, “Ecofeminists like Merchant have helped us understand how our interactions with the natural world structure are structured by our cultural history”, which presumably nobody knew before that clever “ecofeminist” Merchant.

Feel this:

Standpoint epistemologists like Harding (2004) argue that feminist science should begin by taking everyday life as problematic, and by starting from marginalized lives. The working class women who are clerks in shopping malls are grateful (or would be if they knew) to Waymouth for providing bright, efficient lighting for their workplace.

Whitten is keen on feelings, but knows there’s something lacking with them. Still, she suggests a list of projects which “are not ‘real physics,’ in the sense of being publishable in Physical Review or some other physics research journal” but which should still be pursued. For instance? Well, “the restoration of Western women physicists and physicists of color to their proper place in history.”

In other words, complain, whine, and carp or get together and hug and talk about not Bell’s theorem and its relation to local causality, but instead talk about the relations between feminist physicists and how women feel about Bell’s theory and its relation to the reductionist idea of causality.

Whitten says, “My feminist training has taught me that science is a socially constructed artifact of human culture.” That being so, and culture being fluid, science can become whatever we wish it to be. Such as not being science at all.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

45 Comments

  1. From your description, it seems that Sailer’s Law of Female Journalism needs to be generalized. Original:

    The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.

    Suggested revision:

    The most heartfelt articles by feminists tend to be demands that everything overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the feminist herself will be considered the best.

  2. Feminine physiques? Wait. What?

  3. Stop the world. I want to get off.

  4. I don’t remember, but is Harrison Bergeron a banned book/story nowadays?

  5. It’s not an Academic Publication if it publishes drivel like this, I don’t care what the title is.

    So we are right—science IS politics, as seen by the idiotic quote from Whitten. “Feminine physics” is called sociology. If Whitten wants to study sociology, there’s a department for that.

    As I’ve said before, feminists are a scourge upon the land. They should be shipped to an island where they can hug and congratulate each other until they starve to death because they have no useful knowledge of life.

    John Z.: No, you can’t get off. You have to stay here and suffer with the rest of us! Of course, maybe we can all bail at the same time. Then it’s good! 🙂

  6. Nuke academia from orbit. Only way to be sure.

  7. John,

    The problem isn’t that people aren’t reading it, the problem is that social justice warriors are starting to read it as an instruction manual rather than the cautionary tale it was meant to be.

  8. I am struggling to see where, in her paper, she argues for feelings over, instead of or as scientific process. Also she does not reject reductionism as alien to a feminist approach, so she is not required to provide an alternative. “A feminist physicist need not abandon reductionism, but she should remember that taking things apart is not always the best way to understand them, and that they need to be put back together again afterward”. It’s valid point – you might dissect a frog to try to understand something about life but if you can’t put it back together so it works questions remain. She argues for the (possible) values of collaboration, community, context and of questioning whether the science we believe gives us the purest results is not itself a product of patriarchal hegemony.

  9. Possibly Vonnegut did not completely understand his own story.

    http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/may/05/vonnegut_lawyers_could/

  10. Here’s a happy-face review of Whitten on ratemyprofessors.com:

    Had her for Ecofeminism, which was a weird, not that interesting class, but she is so nice and took us on cool field trips and introduced us to many members of the Colorado Springs Community. We had to do community service (10 hrs) and write a paper/make a presentation, but otherwise there was little work and she didn’t care if we came to class.

    I don’t know about you, but that me makes me feel sciencey all over.

  11. The only people feminists love are Islamists: https://youtu.be/ecJUqhm2g08

  12. What do you say when something is a self-parody? Is there a term for that?

    I should add way back in the 1950’s there was one female physicist in our graduate class at Harvard. Everybody admitted she was a star–there was no prejudice because of her sex.
    There had been prejudice against women in physics in prior years. The story of Emmy Noether comes to mind, who made fundamental discoveries in theoretical physics but couldn’t get an academic position in Germany.

  13. Bob:
    There was also Lise Meitner, who along with Otto Hahn, discovered the splitting of a uranium atom. I watched a special on her on PBS (yes, PBS…..). Lise was allowed to become a physics professor in Germany, but Hitler put an end to her career in Germany because of anti-Jewish laws.Wiki says she was posthumously honored, including having a manmade element named after her (meitnerium).

    One note here and some will undoubtedly disagree, but women often do not seem to crave the glory and lauding that men do. I have noticed that female bloggers share postings and rarely are concerned about copyrights, etc. This does get them into trouble at times. However, it seems that the sharing of information and the gaining of knowledge are more important than any glory that goes along with it. Feminists are not like that, of course, instead they want all the glory (and not have to do the work). Just an observation.

    Steve E: That explains a lot…..

  14. I live in Fairfax, VA, and there is a high school of science and technology here. The student body is mainly male, Caucasian and Asiatic. The diversitycrats always have their knickers in a knot because the student body isn’t representative of the local demographics. They are always trying to think up ways to get more females, blacks and Hispanics in the student body. Maybe feminist physics would entice more women to apply for admission.

  15. Then there was Hedy Lamarr (from wiki post)

    At the beginning of World War II, with composer George Antheil, Lamarr developed radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, using spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Though the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth technology, and this work led to them being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

    There was an Australian Radio Astronomer, Ruby Scott-Payne who wasn’t allowed employment because of being a female.

  16. Malc: Who dissects a frog to “learn something about life”? Frogs are dissected to learn anatomy. Since they are dead, they cannot speak to life. Not “being able to put it back together so it works” does indicate we don’t know how frogs live and breathe fully, but does anyone actually dissect a dead frog to see if they can reassemble it and get it be alive again? That does not make sense to me.

    “because the process of scientific discovery is a human endeavor that benefits from removing prejudice against any race, ethnicity, or gender.” Inclusion of the terms race, thnicity or gender are an appeal to emotion. If she was actually appealing to intellect, she would have said that all who can master the complexities of physics should be included. Using terms like race, gender, etc are generally emotional appeals.

    She also says “none of these characteristics has any bearing on the ability to do physics” and turns right around and argues we must have more inclusion of women, etc, more diversity. If none of those characteristics has any bearing, why is she demanding inclusion of these persons? She clearly is not interested in actual qualifications. She does not believe what she just wrote.

  17. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 12, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    One of the seminal works of the Scientific Revolution was Francis Bacon’s “The Masculine Birth of Time.” In it, he compared the ancient and medieval investigation of nature to “little boys” who cannot get women (i.e., nature) pregnant. Nature was imagined as a woman who would be “led in chains” with “her children” (i.e., useful products) to extend “man’s dominion.” It was all very patriarchal in the 17th century Revolution kind of way. The whole Enlightenment thingie imagined people as “unrelated human units milling around in a social vacuum” mirroring the contemporary notion of “unrelated Democritean atoms spinning in the void.” Complications like women, children, family, etc. were ignored.

  18. “the measurement apparatus interacts with the thing measured”

    The quantum mystery lies in the assertion that previous to the measurement, the quantum entity lacks an unambigious, unique value of the quantity being measured. This is not an assertion about the entity being disturbed by the measuring appratus but an ontological assertion about the quantum entity in its undisturbed state.

    If the assertion was just that the appratus interacts with quantum entities in unspecifible manner, there would NOT be anything mysterious in quantum mechanics.

  19. “What physics wants, what physics needs if it is to survive and be of any use or interest, is an extreme, elite minority that doesn’t even vaguely resemble the bulk of mankind.”

    LOL! Spoken like a true Social Darwinist. Just before the Doomsday device finally goes off, perhaps we could gather all the elite physicists, and tall blonde women, who could later repopulate the world with Super Aryan Divorcees.

    What Physics needs is more education and dissemination throughout society. You do not have to be a genius to understand physics. You just need to the environment to learn about about it. Backwards, anti-intellectual/pseudo-intellectual, religious conservatism certainly isn’t doing Physics any good.

    JMJ

  20. Sheri. I think the point is that reductionism seeks to understand the world as a mechanism, a system of functioning interrelated parts which can be dissected till we get to the fundamental parts. But our frog is clearly not simply such a system or we really would be able to put it back together again and fire it up. She suggests that the dominance of such a world view arises from a background of male prerogative.

    How is the inclusion of race and gender an appeal to emotion? It is an appeal to democracy. All who can master the complexities of physics certainly should be included. But they aren’t.

  21. JMJ: Spoken like a truly clueless progressive with no understanding of science. Interesting that you don’t need to be a genius to understand physics. If that were true, every high schooler out there would be breezing through physics with an easy A and would have solved the problems of energy, medicine and space centuries ago. But keep up the good work. Peddlers of magic potions, psychics, CAGW proponents, and politicians worship the ground you walk on.

  22. Malc: Okay, I get the idea of dissecting the frog, though her suggestion that male prerogative is the reason for this is just a female blaming males for her lack of success. This would be my suggestion for why there are so few females in physics—no one sat around singing the praises of the women and congratulating them, worshipping them and helping them if they made a few teeny, tiny errors.

    The inclusion of race and gender is not an appeal to democracy. Even if it was, how in the world is democracy part of what is supposed to be science? Or do we indeed vote on what theories we like and then the vote determines the “reality”? Physics is about whomever can actually do the math and understand the theory. Were women excluded? At times, though I would note that the truly talented ones always seemed to manage a way around the limitations. It’s a complete and utter lie of the progressives that women are not in mathematics because they are discriminated against (actually, women are generally cut much more slack than the males). They are not in mathematics and physics because they lack what it takes to make it is the field. That’s it. No, “boo hoo hoo” the mean boys won’t let me into their treehouse” garbage. They simply cannot compete. As noted, those who are truly talented do succeed. Feminists are lazy losers who want to blame everyone for their losses. Race and gender are two ways progressives try to excuse such laziness. It’s interesting that progressives see race and gender in EVERYTHING, while pretending it’s conservatives who do. Smoke and mirrors.

  23. Sheri. I suppose you could argue that a sort of tacit voting system operates in science otherwise certain ideas about a, ahem, certain trace gas wouldn’t have advanced to the point they have now. When I said ‘democracy’ I meant in the sense of egalitarianism, inclusiveness and non-discrimination, not literally democratic process.

    I think what I see in this paper is someone looking, at quite a high level, at science primarily, and scientific establishment secondarily, from a feminist perspective and asking if science at its core is not somehow shaped by patriarchal values, because its institutions certainly are. Patriarchal values, sexism is everywhere. It would be absolutely amazing if science had escaped this.

    Your other points are difficult to address because you don’t say what you mean, for example by ‘feminists’. There are lots of different kinds of feminists all the way across the political spectrum. There are considerable differences of opinion amongst these groups within feminism itself.

  24. By “feminist”, I mean women who blame men for every evil in the world and who think women should not have to compete with men but rather get a free pass into anything they want. Often, the term “man hater” is appropriate, since feminists despise men and appear to wish there was no need for them at all.

    As noted, women who were truly good at what they did, be it physics, marksmanship, flying etc, did succeed and were noticed. Not all were rewarded during their lifetimes, but not all men are rewarded during their lifetimes. There have always been women who pushed through the barriers and were employed in traditionally male fields, just as men have been employed in traditionally female fields. The problem is feminists do not want to earn their positions. They want to be given the position because “x” number of females exist in society so “x” number of women should be physicists. That is a completely irrational argument that actually says gender is the determining factor of who should be a physicist. In order to accomplish this, one has to include unqualified individuals and exclude qualified ones to make the ratio equal. That is what Whitten means by “We hope to push our community towards equity and inclusion so that the community of scientists more closely matches the makeup of humankind”. She is not saying qualified women should be let in—she is saying physicists should be 50% or more female because the population is. That is not science, not rational and not desirable.

  25. Sheri. Certainly there are radical ‘feminists’ whose’ Feminism’ is exclusionary and embattled. Who have co-opted a movement into a safe space and who believe that men cannot be feminists under any circumstances in the same way that a white person, so they insist, cannot be for racial equality. I question whether these people qualify as feminists at all because their version of it more closely resembles the tribalism that Feminism is supposed to change.

    From the paper: “The physics community is one of the most homogeneous, even in science; most recent statistics show that doctoral level physicists in the US are 87.5% male and 75% white (NSF, 2011, Tables 9-5 and 9-6, respectively).”

    Do you believe that this is a natural distribution, even within a community of elites? Quite apart from the question of ‘positive discrimination’ which I really don’t believe she is arguing for, does this look right?

  26. Malc: Agreed that radical “feminists” do closely resemble tribalism.

    Honestly, yes the 87.5% male and 75% white does look right. According to the census, 77% of Americans identify their race as “white”. The percentage of 75% in physics is reasonable. Now, if we start subdividing into Hispanic (which is actually white), the percentage of Americans who identify as white alone, not Hispanic or Latino, is 62.1%. So the 75% is still not unreasonable.

    As for the male component being 87.5%, I’m actually surprised it’s not higher. There is an irrational belief that women are equal to men in math and science. They are not. Being one, I can attest to the fact that bringing up quantum mechanics in a group of women is generally met with silence. Same for calculus. Is this because society caused women to not go into these fields. No, I don’t think so. Women are not interested in these fields, as is evidenced by no matter how much these are pushed early on in school, unless the classes are dumbed down, women drop out. How many women have you known who sigh and say “I could have been a world famous physicist if only the mean boys hadn’t teased me”? I don’t know any. People study and go into fields they like. It really is that simple.

  27. Sheri. Regarding female indifference to math I don’t doubt that is your experience. But it could be that men are better at math because they believe they are, and it is this self belief which is being bolstered. I’m sure there are studies out there that’ll come down one side or the other on the question of whether men are innately better at math. In my experience I have found, somewhat alarmingly, in my daughters a tendency to self-deprecate. They don’t believe they are good at something till we take the matter on and often find that this belief is misplaced. My eldest daughter, who is 11, for example, was adamant that she could not spell very well. So together we set out to find if this was the case. Turns out she is excellent and shortly thereafter came first in a spelling test at school. We might just as well conclude that men are better at fine art because there are more of their works hanging in galleries with bigger price tags on them than the works of women. But then, historically, fine art has tended to celebrate ‘heroism’, which is not a typical focus of women artists, nor particularly relevant to the business of making work for that matter. There is a cultural component to all this. Like I say, it is impossible for one branch of human endeavour – science, to have escaped it when every other has been influenced.

  28. The fact that men are better at math than women is unarguable. See the results of the Putnam math competition. They had to have a separate competition for women so the women could win.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lowell_Putnam_Mathematical_Competition

  29. Paic, if we’re going to use anecdotal evidence let me give mine: I have five children, three female , two male; 11 grandchildren, 4 female, 7 male. Of the five children, the only one with any math talent was one of the girls; of the 11 grandchildren, 3 females are ok at math, 2 males are ok, and one male is super. My wife is a mathphobe, so do a Mendelian analysis as you will.

    I have read (and can’t find the reference) that there is a genetic difference traced to amount of hormone in prenatal brains. Testing results showing differences are controversial.

    The main point is, one should not judge individuals by statistical properties of the group into which they’re placed. There is a great Chinese basketball player, Yao Ming, but most great basketball players are black. There have been great female physicists and hard scientists–mentioned above–Emmy Noether, Lise Meitner, Hedy Lamarr. Statistical inequalities may be valid, but they should not be used to judge individuals. Nor should compensating efforts be made remove statistical inequalities.

    JMJ, I’m doubtful from some of your previous comments that you know that much about physics, but you do have a certain point which was not put properly. You do need to have special mental faculties, with which most of the population are not endowed, to do physics and the hard sciences. You do not need more than ordinary intelligence to understand science if it’s taught properly, and that is not by doing problems which will never be encountered in your later life, but by a critical examination of the history of science, seeing how scientific ideas have changes and been tested.

  30. Ray,
    A bit like MLB sponsoring tee-ball so wannabes can not only win but say they did so in MLB. All the while effectively implying competition is unfair.

  31. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 13, 2016 at 11:22 am

    one should not judge individuals by statistical properties of the group into which they’re placed.
    Amen, Brother Bob! Those who do not understand statistics are bound to repeat them.

  32. Malc: Yes, girls can self-deprecate. But the solution is not to insist they be included in physics, but rather to do exactly as you did and find out if the girl can or cannot do what she believes she can/cannot. My objection in this is that the assumption is women and men are equal in ability and just unequal in encouragement. There is little evidence for that. Also, calling this a self-fulfilling prophecy is pretty much assuming that which you want to prove—that men and women are equal in abilities.

    I pulled up the “Association for Women in Mathematics” and the page has an essay contest “Biographies of Contemporary Women in Mathematics”. There is a fundamental flaw in all of this. Even the math association for women is more interested in touchy-feely than in math. If this is women in math, I see the problem clearly.

  33. Sheri. I found this: from Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender (pp. 180-1)
    More recently, several very large-scale studies have collected data that offer tests of the Greater Male Variability hypothesis by investigating whether males are inevitably more variable in math performance, and always outnumber females at the high end of ability. The answer, in children at least, is no. In a Science study of over 7 million United States schoolchildren, Janet Hyde and her team found that across grade levels and states, boys were moderately more variable than girls. Yet when they looked at the data from Minnesota state assessments of eleventh graders to see how many boys and girls scored above the 95th and 99th percentile (that is, scored better than 95%, or 99%, of their peers) an interesting pattern emerged. Among white children there were, respectively, about one-and-a-half and two boys for every girl. But among Asian-American kids, the patterns were different. At the 95th percentile boys’ advantage was less, and at the 99th percentile there were more girls than boys. Start to look in other countries and you find further evidence that sex differences in variability are, well, variable. Luigi Guiso’s cross-cultural Science study also found that, like the gender gap in mean scores, the ratio of males to females at the high end of performance is something that changes from country to country. While in the majority of the forty countries studied there were indeed more boys than girls in the 95th and 99th percentiles, in four countries the ratios were equal or even reversed. (These were Indonesia, the UK, Iceland and Thailand.) Two other large cross-cultural studies of math scores in teenagers have also found that although males are usually more variable, and outnumber girls at the top 5 percent of ability, this is not invariably so: in some countries females are equally or more variable, or are as likely as boys to make it into the 95th percentile.

  34. Malc: We can play dueling statistics all day long. Males score approximately 40 points higher on SAT math scores and have done so for decades. Some studies show that only in about four countries do girls score higher in math than boys. Also, it depends on the type of math—up to algebra, math is fairly concrete. From algebra through calculus, it becomes much more abstract, as does physics when it gets into quantum mechanics. One would expect the differences to be amplified in colleges where abstract math and physics are taught. There are hundreds of studies and hundreds of outcomes, meaning we do not know what’s going on nor why.

    I will not accept that trying to shove girls into fields they really have no interest in is acceptable. Girls should be taught to pursue whatever they want to do and are actually good at and to ignore other people’s opinions on what girls do. Trying to shove girls into these fields is just as damaging as excluding them, thought those who preach “equality” never seem to care about that.

  35. Sheri. Well yes. There is an argument for, and arguments against essentialism. These ratios of 95 percentile achievers, boys and girls, do change depending on culture and over time; which suggests a cultural component. I would argue that feminism does provide for the idea that males and females have different dispositions and need to be equally supported, though in different ways. I mean deciding to have children nearly always involve a shift in focus from career to domestic nurturing, for women, usually. You might say that rearing children to be empowered, happy individuals is an achievement on par with any other.

  36. From the original letter at https://eblur.github.io/scotus/

    “…science relies heavily on consensus about acceptable results as well as future research directions, making diversity among scientists a crucial aspect of objective, bias-free science.”

    If the science that these people have in mind relies heavily upon reaching a consensus about which results are deemed to be ‘acceptable’, then it isn’t science in the first place – it’s politics. These self-styled physicists don’t seem to understand the objective nature of the method; that is, the results that one obtains will be considered invalid if those results cannot be reproduced by anyone else. It has nothing to do with ethnicity, politics, gender or anything other than honesty, competency, talent and training.

    Anyone can be a scientist if they are a) genuinely interested in science, b) are willing to invest the time and energy in becoming one, and c) are willing to persist in the face of obstacles and setbacks. In spite of what many may seem to believe, physics actually isn’t so difficult to understand (Q.M. excepted) for those who really enjoy the subject, and this, to me, is what should determine whether or not one should pursue the subject in academia. If you really are not interested in science, then study something else (like sociology or economics), and don’t spend your time whining about how few women or ‘minorities’ are pursuing science degrees at university. The classes reflect the aptitudes and inclinations of those who attend them, and the simple fact remains that most females are far more interested in shoe-shopping, the size of their waistline, and celebrity gossip than they are physics.

  37. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 14, 2016 at 6:56 am

    the results that one obtains will be considered invalid if those results cannot be reproduced by anyone else.

    Except in the social “sciences,” it’s usually not the results that cannot be reproduced, it’s the interpretation of those results. That the K/T boundary layer is richer in iridium than other strata is acknowledged, but whether it represents massive vulcanism in the Deccan Traps or a primordial asteroid strike is up for grabs — though the consensus favors the asteroid for now. Similarly, the Afshar experiment seemed to favor the transactional theory of quantum mechanics, but the Copenhagen consensus weighed in with an interpretation that preserved the dominant paradigm.

    It’s not simply a matter of consensus, it’s that the same set of facts can always be interpreted with more than one theory. It’s the theories that get falsified or beg consensus, not the actual facts or experimental results. (Unless a particle appears to travel faster than light….)

  38. Ray: This was later found to be equipment error and rejected by 2012. after multiple attempts at reproducing the results. All reproductions topped out a the speed of light.

  39. My mother taught me a lesson a really, really long time ago. It was nap time, so I went to take a nap. When I woke up, I came out and asked if I could get up.

    “No, when you are ready to get up, get up!” replied my mother.

    We repeated that cycle 6 or 7 times before it somehow hit me that she said “When you are ready to get up, get up!”

    I finally realized it was up to me to get up.

    My failures in rising through the ranks can be attributed to a variation of this. I expect people to recognize my brilliance even though I don’t push it in their face.

    The trick is pushing it in their face the right way. There is an art to it. Some people have the knack, some people don’t. Those of use who don’t have the knack, have to learn to do it differently. It is largely a nonverbal issue that we are learning. Because it is nonverbal and we don’t have it, chances are we are going to keep doing it wrong. I know I keep doing it wrong. I can sort of see why I am doing it wrong. That “glass ceiling” isn’t composed of gender, race, or sexual orientation ( especially not sexual orientation ). It is almost entirely the people on the other side trying to assess whether you have what it takes to be on their side. As soon as you make a test to assess whether someone can handle the other side, the test becomes outdated. People can pass tests to which the answers are known. The test they want you to pass is something completely different. There is a bias in the tests though. People with similar backgrounds will communicate better than people who have different backgrounds. Men and women tend not to have the same backgrounds. There is a cultural component to it. There is hormonal component to it. Nature and nurture but up against each other in titanic ways. In lesser ways the same can be said for ethnic groups and racial groups.

    When it is time to stand up and fight, when we grow up properly, we stand up and fight. Yet we never know we are actually going to stand up and fight until the time comes. I read somewhere that most people are medal of honor types when the time comes, but most of us never have the time come.

  40. Social Darwinist

    It’s been a while since I last saw that phrase. I thought it had gone out of style. Nowadays, it’s mostly used by slackers who want to live off the fruits of other people’s labor.

  41. “yeh but no bet yeh but no bet yeh but no but…..Sue was proper upset!”
    There’s nothing like a bit of hair pulling.
    That post was a cringe-fest and Briggs knows where to find them. BBC Question Time most weeks is like this. Now the men join in. They’ve learned the lingo.
    It is time a high profile woman spoke out. David Starkey has a go but bless him has a reputation as irascible. Farage told the truth about women on the London Metal Exchange and lit the blue touch paper.

    The media assist institutions like universities and workplaces to continue the madness. The answer will come from the most unexpected place. Normality will return on this.

    Therein Meyre, a conservative, agrees:
    “Then they have classes like feminist research, what the …..is that? Feminist research?”, “There’s no such thing as feminist research there’s only scientific research”
    He’s called a misogynist.)
    “I don’t see feminism being saved.”
    “This is thirty years of what we’re seeing today….These ideologues they have no interest in, like, adapting or changing their message to suit reality or suit the facts.”
    “politicians very much enforce this fighting amongst each other.”
    “If there’s race wars and gender wars we’re all fighting against each other and we’re not seeing the real route of the problem (as a Libertarian) which is the state.”
    “Progressives and liberals pervert the story into being anti-woman because you are pro- life. People who are pro life, it’s about the baby who they view as a human being.”

  42. “It’s not simply a matter of consensus, it’s that the same set of facts can always be interpreted with more than one theory.” – YOS

    Yes, but only one of those theories will actually be correct. You mentioned the K-T boundary, and how it could have been an asteroid, increased vulcanism, perhaps a combination of the two, or maybe something else entirely, but the correct answer will not be arrived at by simply taking a poll of those who are involved in the search for the answer. Consensus is, as it should be, completely irrelevant. The fact that the current consensus favours an asteroid strike doesn’t mean that therefore it was an asteroid. It might have been, and maybe it was, but we won’t know until we actually find sufficient evidence to lay this debate to rest (ex. if we find evidence of the asteroid itself – we’ve already got the crater – no evidence whatsoever of increased vulcanism during this time, evidence that goes against the vulcanism hypothesis, and so on).

    Far too many people (especially in the media) seem to think, “Oh, there’s a consensus of scientists who claim X, therefore it must be X because, after all, they’re the experts”. It truly is baffling.

  43. @ Mactoul and Briggs: The “Uncertainty principle” in quantum exists only for complementary variables, not because of the measurement itself disturbing the system or collapsing the quantum state, but because the measurements are complementary. Take speed and location. To measure a particle’s speed requires that I know the time it takes to cross a specific distance. To know its location requires that I know exactly when it is in a specific spot. If I know the exact spot a particle is, then I am not measuring it over a distance. I can say, “the particle was at Point A at 5:00,” and “The particle traveled between A and B in 7 minutes,” but I can’t know exactly how fast it was going when it was at Point A, because that requires measuring it over a distance, not a spot.

    The Observer Effect is the idea that certain quantum properties cannot be observed without altering the system–say, measuring a particle’s position by bouncing an electron on it, thereby knocking the particle out of place. Which is also a definite issue with quantum, but a mechanical one.

    Mactoul, I think you are referring to quantum superposition, which is a theoretical position held by many q. physicists, ie, Niels Bohr and his Copenhagen interpretation, but not all. (I don’t think Schrodinger himself held it.)

  44. You’re on the horns of a trilemma.

    There is absolutely no reason at all to limit the community of physicists by any bodily criterion. There are differences between men’s and women’s brains, and nothing to lose by including both in scientific quests. The Feminists are correct in asserting that.

    However, Feminism is a form of Social Constructivism, which is inimical to physics. Men’s Rights Advocacy is also a form of Social Constructivism. Being a man, you’re on the side of the MRAs. If a woman wrote this article, she’d be on the side of the Feminists. But the article would be the same either way, because it’s not about men versus women. It’s about truth versus nonsense, and both you and Whitten are on the side of nonsense.

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