When the world got its first glimpse of an image of a black hole event horizon back in early April, most people couldn’t believe their eyes. It was a momentous occasion in science, made even more so due to the input of one particular person – a woman by the name of Dr Katherine Bouman. However, not everyone was keen to give this female scientist the credit she so deserves. Here’s everything you need to know about Dr Bouman and that black hole photo.
The Black Hole Photo
At just 29 years old, Dr Katherine Bouman probably never imagined she’d be one of the women behind one of the world’s most impressive images. The black hole photo was two years in the making, after a network of radio telescopes were focused on a region of spacetime around 54 million light-years away. For the next two years, a team of around 200 scientists created an algorithm to extract data and then piece it all together to create the stunning image that quickly went viral. For Dr Bouman, it was likely to be a life-changing moment. Not all for the right reasons, however!
Backlash For Bouman
When the black hole photo was released, people were keen to show off Dr Katherine Bouman, who had used her expertise in computer science to help create the algorithm that pieced together the image. The post-doctoral fellow at MIT was flung into the limelight for her part in the incredible discovery, but not everyone was impressed. In fact, many trolls soon took to social media to discredit Dr Bouman and the work she put in. They believed that the young woman was being broadcast everywhere to push a “left wing narrative” and “feminist agenda.” Instead, they wanted praise to go to who they thought was the real hero behind the image, Andrew Chael, who had written a lot of the code for the algorithm.
Andrew Chael was quick to jump to the defense of his colleague and friend in a long Twitter thread, explaining that he was “thrilled” that she was getting the recognition she deserved and “inspiring people as an example of women’s leadership in STEM.” We certainly need more women like Bouman paving the way for more diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. And as for the trolls? Well, maybe they’re just jealous…