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You had me worried there for a moment, CERN!

We girls do get ourselves in a tizzy sometimes. Even me, and I’m an unusual girl, being into boy things like science. As a sixth former my dream was to become an astronaut, or, failing that (edit: or in addition to that), a particle physicist who would unlock the secrets of the universe at CERN. Those dreams weren’t so crazy, either. I did go to Oxford to study physics, and I did make some use of my degree in parts of my subsequent career. I never made it to CERN but I know people who did. For these reasons I have a motherly concern for the future of science, with particle physics being particularly close to my heart. When my old college and the Oxford Department of Physics send me their respective begging newsletters I throw them both away but I never fail to commit the physics one to the depths of the recycling bin in a respectful manner.

That is why I was so worried when I read this report from the BBC:

Cern scientist Alessandro Strumia suspended after comments

A senior scientist who said physics “was invented and built by men” has been suspended with immediate effect from working with Cern.

Prof Alessandro Strumia, of Pisa University, made the comments during a presentation organised by the European nuclear research centre.

Cern issued a statement on Monday suspending Prof Strumia pending an investigation.

You can see why I was worried for a moment: there was no accusation of scientific misconduct by Professor Strumia. It seemed almost as if CERN were punishing unconventional political beliefs. But then all became clear. Why did I not see it before? Like true scientists, CERN proposed to investigate the Professor’s hypothesis. He has said, “People say that physics is sexist, physics is racist. I made some simple checks and discovered that it wasn’t, that it was becoming sexist against men and said so.” Obviously CERN would dispassionately examine the relevant data and draw conclusions as to how well it aligned to his hypothesis.

What a relie…

It stated that his presentation was “unacceptable”.

How do you know in advance whether it was acceptable or not, CERN? OK, I was being a sarcastic cow as per usual when I pretended to think that you ever had any plan to investigate whether what he said was true, but you haven’t even done your wretched little thoughtcrime investigation yet.

And so it goes on:

“Cern always strives to carry out its scientific mission in a peaceful and inclusive environment,” the statement reads, calling the presentation “contrary to the Cern Code of Conduct”.

The organisation said it was “unfortunate” the views of the scientist, who works at a collaborating university, “risks overshadowing the important message and achievements of the event”.

Prof Strumia, who regularly works at Cern, was speaking at a workshop in Geneva on gender and high energy physics.

He told his audience of young, predominantly female physicists that his results “proved” that “physics is not sexist against women. However the truth does not matter, because it is part of a political battle coming from outside”.

He produced a series of graphs which, he claimed, showed that women were hired over men whose research was cited more by other scientists in their publications, which is an indication of higher quality.

He also presented data that he claimed showed that male and female researchers were equally cited at the start of their careers but men scored progressively better as their careers progressed.

Carelessly, the BBC let us see a glimpse of a graph of one of his slides which did seem to kinda sorta suggest that… I will say no more. He may well be wrong. When scientists make confident pronouncements about matters outside their area of expertise they often make fools of themselves. But fair play to him, he did put the ball in his opponents’ court by publishing his data. In an older tradition of reporting this might have been the prompt for the BBC to provide an analysis of the figures. But the modern BBC prefers to outsource its analysis to semi-random people on Twitter. Some woman who must be listened to because her twitter handle is “DrSammie” tweets, “I don’t even have any rage left for the whole CERN sexism thing because, truth is, I’m not at all shocked or surprised knowing some of the attitudes of people I have met. It aint unique to any one scientific discipline.” I do hope she is able to find a new supply of rage soon; a modern female scientist must never be without rage.

Just to top it off, the BBC finishes by this charming little lie of omission. The article says:

In 2015, Nobel laureate Prof Tim Hunt resigned from his position at University College London after telling an audience of young female scientists at a conference in South Korea that the “trouble with girls” in labs was that “when you criticise them they cry”.

Way to go, BBC. Don’t let the readers know that the next words Hunt said were,

Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

Emphasis added. It was a joke. But it is not wise to joke against the dominant religion, as Sir Tim Hunt’s subsequent treatment demonstrated. Nor is it wise to put forward for discussion ideas contrary to that religion, as Professor Strumi’s treatment demonstrates. Perhaps it is a still too early to bring up Galileo Galilei’s dealings with the Holy Office. But when I read that the first reaction of some of the most prominent scientists in the world, endlessly lauded for their “scientific daring”, to new ideas from one of their number is to is to deem those ideas “unacceptable” – not “wrong for the following reasons” but unacceptable – I cannot help remembering that Galileo complained to Kepler that those who denounced him would not even look through his telescope.

19 comments to You had me worried there for a moment, CERN!

  • The Sage

    Slides here — https://drive.google.com/file/d/1c_NyUhOZ8erdqU2AGZJZtNfFeA91Kefj/view — for those wondering how heretical this chap was being.

  • bobby b

    The left’s kindredship with Islam stems from the fact that both seek to lead us into a new Dark Age where faith replaces knowledge.

  • NickM

    Baryons are from Mars, leptons from Venus and we all know where mesons come from don’t we…

    NickM (BSc Physics – Nottingham, MSc Astrophysics – London)

  • CanSco

    My first, late, wife was a physicist in the 1980s. Smartest woman I ever met, said she used to attend undergrad physics classes, listen very intently but take no notes. Come the exam if she needed a formula that she could not remember to solve a question, she would re-derive the formula from scratch during the exam! After the birth of our second of three children she decided it was more fulfilling to raise kids than do physics research, so she stopped the physics. She never ever complained about unjust discrimination. It seemed very much a meritocracy. Fools who could not do the work were the ones mocked and shunned.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Did he mean ‘man’ to include mankind, including women, or was he forgetting the female scientists who have made contributions but been overlooked- I can’t remember their names, but you must know some!

  • Alsadius

    Sage: Thanks for the link. He seems to be pushing his views very hard, in a way that isn’t exactly in keeping with typical scientific writing styles, but at first glance the data seems plausible. He’s obviously biased as heck, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

  • NickM

    Might you possibly be thinking of the only person to ever win Nobel’s in both Physics and Chemistry?

  • Mr Black

    This would seem to be expected among an organisation drawn from the finest liberal indoctrination centres in the world.

  • pete

    If Strumia and his fellow academics had stood up to this kind of anti-intellectual dogma when it first started to appear then we wouldn’t be where we are now.

    But they didn’t. They either meekly submitted to it or actively promoted it.

    Strumia and other victims deserve everything they now get.

  • EdMJ

    I do hope she is able to find a new supply of rage soon; a modern female scientist must never be without rage.

    Perhaps CERN should start looking into tapping the upset feelings of the SJW crowd as an energy source that could outshine even fusion? Ubiquitous, easily triggered, inexhaustible and completely devoid of reality, there’s no limit to where their ‘rage’ could take us, if only it could be harnessed.

    Perhaps the only downside would be the loud ‘reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ screeching noise that accompanies it.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Seeing the title, I thought this post was going to be about the danger of the Earth collapsing into a 100m sphere, as has been mooted recently. Thank goodness we have more important things to discuss!

  • Mr Ed

    , I thought this post was going to be about the danger of the Earth collapsing into a 100m sphere,

    No, that’s called ‘crashing out of the European Union’.

  • Ellen

    In nuclear physics alone we have Lise Meitner, Maria Goeppert Mayer, and Marie Curie. The extremely interesting “Tabby’s Star” was discovered by Tabitha Boyajian. There’s always Ada Lovelace to consider, and the redoubtable Admiral Grace Hopper, who among other things caught the first literal computer bug. And God alone knows how many other woman scientists.

    Important as they were, and are, they’re outnumbered by male scientists. Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, was forced to resign after noting this fact. It could have been worse: he could have been wearing a politically incorrect shirt when he said it.

    There is no end to political correctness. I have a doctorate in nuclear physics, though I graduated at a terrible time to get employment with it (and didn’t like it all that much at any rate). So I ran off and joined the museum world.

    Fast forward a few decades, and I was curator when our museum was doing an exhibition on electricity. Now the entire world knew about electricity (lightning, after all) but it was Europeans who learned how to make it do useful things. You would not believe how much I was pressured to find African origins for the field. The Chinese weren’t that bad – they did things with compasses and electric fish. The ancient Egyptians had electric fish as well (though I can’t recall any definite proof they used them) and ancient Persians had the Baghdad Battery. South America was the home of the electric eel. But sub-Saharan Africa? Nada.

    I suspect that museum director is still quietly fuming, even in retirement, twenty years later.

  • Might you possibly be thinking of the only person to ever win Nobel’s in both Physics and Chemistry? (NickM, October 2, 2018 at 8:33 am)

    Sir Tim Hunt’s joke that “either you fall in love with them or they fall in love with you” would certainly fit that particular example. A feminist could reply – honestly, for once – that in pre-WWI France, her (when-widowed) affair got a lot more talked about than a male scientist’s affair would have been, even allowing for her coincidental second Nobel prize rendering her exceptionally newsworthy that year. “Thanks to our many PC protections, it would not happen so today”, the feminist might say, though, in view of recent events, said feminist should then in honesty add, “unless she voted Republican”. 🙂

    It is unclear to me why women would be attracted to the sciences by being told to expect an unjustly low percentage of female colleagues and prejudice so strong from male colleagues that an extensive bureaucracy is needed to control it. But if it comes to that, I was never clear why women would be motivated to go to university by being told they had a 1-in-5 chance of assault.

  • Sonny Wayze

    Would ‘Les Horribles Cernettes’ cause widespread strokes these days?


  • lucklucky

    “This would seem to be expected among an organisation drawn from the finest liberal indoctrination centres in the world.”

    Stop using the world liberal to what is its inverse.

  • +1 lucklucky.

    Stop calling people who are profoundly illiberal ‘liberal’ 🙄

  • Paul Marks

    Perry you are a bit late – it became accepted in the United States as far back as the 1920s that people who were broadly in support the Marxist Soviet Union were “liberal”. So we lost the word “liberal” 90 years ago – hard to see how we can get it back now. Although, YES, at the time I would have shouted at the “liberals” who lionised “Lenin” and called Calvin Coolidge all sorts of nasty names saying “you lying scumbags, Calvin Coolidge is not an enemy of liberalism, he is the liberal – it is YOU and your beloved Soviet Union who are the enemies of liberalism”.

    These days it is all a bit pointless – as Georgetown Professors who say that Republican white men should be killed having first been castrated and there sexual organs fed to pigs are “liberals” (in the modern meaning of the word) – their university fully supports them, and this is what they are supposed to teach to their students (and it is exactly what they do teach to their students – whose stupid families pay a fortune to have their children brainwashed with Frankfurt School of Marxism stuff, sorry I mean with “liberalism”).

    All the cultural institutions (from the Harvard and the New York Times to Hollywood) are in agreement about what liberalism is – liberalism is about building a totalitarian society where “capitalist” freedom would be utterly exterminated along with “Big Business”. Big Business is very supportive of its own extermination (“your should rob and murder us all” might as well be the motto of Big Business – indeed it basically is the motto of Big Business) – the Marxist, sorry “liberal”, groups in the United States are very well funded by Big Business, what matters is looking “hip” and “cool” and appealing to the “college kid market” for the precious end-of-year-bonus due to an increase in sales of Nike shoes or whatever, if one has to support genocide (including the murder or one’s self and one’s family) that is just what one has to do – must be “hip”, “cool” and “with-it” even if one is the Ford Motor Company. Genocide and the destruction of civilisation are what “liberalism” is all about, and has been about for a long time now.

    As for this Professor of Physics – he has clearly committed thought crime (it is an open and shut case), why has he not been castrated and then hanged whilst he watches his penis and testicles eaten by pigs? It has long been established that this would be the “liberal” thing to do.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The one principle about left-wing politics (call it “socialist” or “liberal”) is that it cannot function unless everyone is also left-wing, it cannot abide the presence of a non-left-wing (be it conservative, libertarian, etc), leftist “democracy” allows voting but always seeks to limit the candidates on offer, by subtle exclusion through shortlisting or by outright jailing or murder of non-left opponents.

    In this post we see where leftist thinking bumps up yet again with core science, which is to accept every hypothesis and subject it to scrutiny, a.k.a. the scientific method. It would be more appropriate to exemplify how the one-time “heretics” have contributed rather than to present a hagiographic account of women scientists. The issue here is that dismissing (even condemning) someone’s analysis because they don’t conform is just about the most anti-science thing one could do, and in CERN of all places!