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Scientists sent a rocket to Mars for less than it cost to make “The Martian” (backchannel.com)
556 points by leslielemon 67 days ago | hide | past | web | 157 comments | favorite

If you are interested in Indian women scientists and engineers, there is a nice compilation (a bit tiresome to read, but worth it, IMO) of biographical essays called 'Lilavati's Daughters' https://ia800402.us.archive.org/33/items/LilavatisDaughters-...

My perception of it, growing up plugged in to the Indian science and engineering community is this: Indian Government organizations (essentially, the major employers till the 1990s) were quite progressive when it came to women in the workplace than you'd think based on population statistics of women-at-work, etc. The reason for this imbalance is inequality: millions of women suffering terrible inequality in the lower socio-economic and lower-caste segments of the population offset gains on the higher end.

It it my somewhat anecdotal experience that, in spite of gender inequalities there are far more percentage of Indian women in tech than their western counterparts (particularly US).

I remember rubyconfindia 2010 - where 30-40% participants were women. Ola bini or one of the keynote speakers commented this is first rubyconf. where he has seen so many women and I could concur because I have been to many conferences here in US and there never were that many women.

Tech. meetups is another story though. Most meetups in India are organized on weekends and there are hardly any women.

There were a couple of studies that showed that in developing countries where social support structures aren't strong you generally see a lot more women go into the less gender traditional fields such as engineering. See Eastern Europe, China, India etc.

However once a country's quality of life goes up dramatically, women generally (this word is key, there are always outliers) will gravitate towards more traditional feminine occupations such as nursing, teaching, etc . See the Scandinavian countries.

>There were a couple of studies that showed that in developing countries where social support structures aren't strong you generally see a lot more women go into the less gender traditional fields such as engineering. See Eastern Europe, China, India etc.

I had to read that twice to follow you.

Be careful with your wording. What you meant was government funded social structures, as opposed to actual social structures (family structure, etc). Most Indians who move to the US will be quick to tell you how much worse the social support structures are in the US. In India, there is usually little need for daycare (relatives almost always look after the kids). Same goes for taking care of the chronically unhealthy people, etc.

My guess is that the fundamental driving force is this. There are great masses of people in a country like India living in abject poverty. If you're smart and lucky enough to have opportunity, what you have in India, that you don't have in a country like the United States, is day-to-day contact with the wretchedly poor. This staring you in the face puts your choices into stark relief.

In the U.S., for example, a bright young lady with opportunities can rest assured that, no matter what she chooses to study, life has a good chance of turning out alright for her. Her family, friends, teachers, and so forth generally agree. However in India, for example, it's far more likely that a bright young lady with opportunities will be thoroughly encouraged -- some might even say pushed -- to pursue only the most remunerative and prestigious occupations. In plain language: "Do you want to end up in the gutter?"

I wonder if these are the social structures that make the most difference.

This strikes too close to home. Growing up in India - one of my uncles drove Autorickshaw's for living - each time he came to our home and saw me not studying, his response was pretty much - "what the heck are you doing? Do you want to drive autorickshaw's for living?"

I had no response to that.

Also - a lot of women in their 30s/20s now have seen - what it means to be a homemaker in India. I think neither their mothers and nor themselves want a life like that.

The mentality was if you are not required to do the physical work then why are you not studying which will free from the physical work forever and you do not have to live a life like the adult uncles who had no choice but to do the physical work to survive . As a school going kids this attitude cause much frustration and depression because they are not permitted to play. But I am happy now that this hard love from my uneducated but well wishing uncles and other souls had made me capable of using internet for other than social media.

If you are not born in India and have guessed this just by studying about India from books and media then you are an excellent guesser.

That's fair, cheers.

Does anyone have a link to these studies?

That's the point. The author merely guessed it from the data of other studies which is impressive and totally correct

I could be wrong but this sounds a lot like what happened in America during WWII. Many men were off at war and the country was coming out of a depression. As a result a ton of women joined the workforce in fields that were typically dominated by men. I don't have any stats to back this up. It's pretty much just what I was told in history class as a kid. Perhaps someone here knows more about it.

I know about as much as you:

I always thought of it as a massive success for the war effort, someone had to assemble the planes, after all. Rosie the Riveter ended up becoming an iconic piece of propaganda during the war, IIRC.

The examples you give do not support given hypothesis at all. Scandinavian countries have not had more gender equality at the time of lower quality of life. I'm also not sure about them having ever had “dramatic“ improvements in quality of life. But even if they had more gender equality, and even if they had dramatic improvements in q. of l. the assertion you made still does not follow in any way based simply on that observation. There are so many other factors that could be involved. For example, notice how all the countries you mentioned as more egalitarian in this area were either socialist, or influenced by socialism (India). Eastern European countries, for example, before the revolutions were extremely patriarchal and conservative in regards to gender roles (and other aspects of life). You can see this returning after the Eastern Block collapsed. You can say what you want about economic aspects, but socialism brought gigantic improvements in a lot of social and cultural aspects of life in those societies (gender equality, literacy, etc.).

Regarding Scandinavian countries, while these are very rich, the cost of living is also very high. The high equality perceived from statistics is actually an economical pressure.

Had a friend in Denmark employed as univerisy lecturer. His salary was very high, yet they were struggling with two kids and wife unemployed (due to language barrier).

> Had a friend in Denmark employed as univerisy lecturer. His salary was very high, yet they were struggling with two kids and wife unemployed (due to language barrier).

This anecdote raises a few issues.

1. Not speaking Danish does not severely impact a job search in Denmark. Jobs from serving in a bar to working in an international company will be happy with an English speaker. There is a small language barrier but not anywhere near as big as e.g. Germany/Italy/France.

2. Denmark is definitely a country where two incomes are needed to live well.

3. The wage disparity between low and high status jobs is not that high. So if the second income is low status it will still make a big difference to household income.

4. Were your friends from outside the EU? There may have been a non language related reason for the wife to be unable to obtain work.

5. The Danish government provides free language lessons for foreigners living in Denmark - although the language is difficult.

6. Academic salaries cost of living adjusted are far better than in e.g. UK (but not as good as those for senior people in the USA).

7. At least your friend was a lecturer... In other countries their role could well have been filled by temporary staff. The Danish have rules preventing the eternal post doc situation that has developed in the UK and US.

Architecture professional from USA. Yep, the language was the official reason why she was getting rejected. Actually, as a lecturer, he has problems not knowing Danish even at the university - internal staff refused to speak English on meetings.

As you said, it's just anecdote - one's experience.

Several South Indian States has 30% seats in Engineering Colleges reserved for Woman. Significantly contributed to increase in women in Tech.

There are only four South Indian states. I am aware of caste-based quotas, but not gender-based ones. Can you provide a source for this?

No there are 5 South Indian States.

Here is a link to explaining Quotas in Colleges for AP and Telangana. http://www.netbadi.in/reservation-quotas.html?showall=1

Women's Quota for both states in 33.3% (1/3rd has to be women).

Personally I think it worked well. The Quota was first implemented in 1993.

There are. I lived through it. For the same grade, a girl could get into a better school than me.

Thid is maybe becayse IT/CS is considered "female" fields and "safe" for girls to get a degree into. My mother annoyed me for a month when I told her I wanted to get into IT, she told me it was a women field you take admission in mechanical etc

I'd be curious as to how much of this is a product of culture and parenting. I'm willing to bet, given my experience, that parents in India are far more pragmatic than those in the West when it comes to advising their children regarding education and lifestyle choices. Becoming a doctor or engineer in a in-demand field not only carries the potential for a high income, but also opens the door to emigrating to another country. Good data point: 11% of physicians in the UK are immigrants from India[1].


It was very difficult to do anything other than engineering, medicine, finance, law, and science in India pre-2000s. Then, with the software and internet and mobile revolutions, in the late 90s and 2000s, software and electronics were substantially more lucrative than pure science or other branches of engineering. Things are becoming more like the US nowadays- with liberal arts being a viable option as the middle class is becoming richer and as children of the first wave of software nouveau riche come of age and their wealth providing some cushion for the liberal-arts and creative types.

There were not enough well-paying jobs (copywriter, creative, real estate agent, retail manager, etc. like in the US) like in the US for people with generic qualifications like English literature, etc. One way out for people with those qualifications was to write banking or governmental entrance exams for jobs. But these too leaned quantitative and had math components making them harder for liberal arts graduates.

From what I've heard from the few people I've met from USSR and China, the situation was similar there too.

I recently worked for a project in a Norwegian bank. Despite the claims of gender equality in Norway over 80% of IT personal and management there are male and most women work in testing.

It was rather interesting to see then when the bank signed a contract with an Indian company, women were like 50% of their IT folks with no gender devisions like testing/development. There were still less women at management positions from the Indian company, but the ratio is better than in the Norwegian bank.

I wonder, why many think that equality should result in 50:50 distribution.

I also wonder, as usually slightly more women live in a country than man, and woman have a slightly longer expected lifespan, which are effects which would distort the distribution.

Law of large numbers.

Assuming both genders are equally talented at a skill, and both genders equally enjoy a skill.

We can both offer equal opportunities, and realize different genders want different things out of a job.

That bank experience shows that women from India do show equal skills in IT. So the difference comes not from gender but from other things.

Wow thanks for sharing this. Read Viji's story. Truly inspiring that she was determined to fight cancer, finish her PhD, do great work, find a spouse who would marry her fully aware that cancer would consume her eventually, and support her research. What a great story!

I'm glad they chose a title that highlights the feat, instead of the fact that they are women. And it's weird that most comments here focus away from the impressive feat.

It's like when those guys landed a spacecraft on a comet and everyone went insane because one of the scientists wore a shirt with pictures of semi-naked women that a woman friend had given him.

Or when they discovered the Higgs boson and they used comic sans for their slides and again people lost their minds.

I have to wonder what these people were reading or paying attention to as none of that ever occurred to me until it somehow made "front page" news.

Thank you!

isn't the point that movies are too expensive to make?

So here is the punch line, can they make a movie of the incredible accomplishment of these women and have it's proceeds cover the cost of developing the mission? :-) That would be pretty profound serendipity.

One of the statements in the article that I really liked was this one, "I would star at the dark and wonder what was beyond it." That is the kind of curiosity you want to nurture in your children.

Slightly ot, but the most successful Bollywood movie of all time is about Indian women wrestlers - http://m.imdb.com/title/tt5074352/

In a country that makes more movies than anywhere else in the world, that's saying a lot.

Or use the reputation generated from successful missions to launch private satellites using your commercial arm Antrix Corporation and bring in more revenue for the government :) This is ISRO's end goal.

> That is the kind of curiosity you want to nurture in your children.

Well, CRISPR then :-)

Joking aside, I'm not sure if that could be done by some method. The raw, childly observation & perception of the nature are needed for that, I guess. The sky is the biggest part of the nature around us and you don't have that in urban areas, because you are not able to see the beauty of the night sky; there is a light pollution only. It's like "city lights is the limit!" in urban areas, while "the sky and beyond clearly is the limit!" in rural areas. Of course, not every child who grows up in country side has the same curiosity towards the nature. I suppose it essentially is the love towards the nature that drives curiosity. How can you put a love for nature into a child's heart? I don't know.. Teaching them the importance of trees? Buying a telescope and observing the moon closely? The smell of the soil after a rain? Telling them that we are all made of stars?[0] It's a tough mission overall :-)

[0] https://youtube.com/watch?v=xAh6fk0KD1c

I hope this picture becomes a symbol of inspiration to all girls worldwide that they are equals when it comes to excelling at STEM. We all need to actively promote the right kind of imagery and narrative around us to build a world where women are empowered are to go after STEM careers, and never ever feel that they won't be able to do better than men.

"And they happen to be women." I don't know about you but I count three men in that picture. Not even counting the rest of the people that undoubtedly worked on this project who were a mix of men and women.

In a few years they can make a "Hidden Figures" movie about the previously unrecognized men that worked on that Mars mission :-)

It's marketing. Everything is marketing. It's obvious the target audience of this article are women. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Just so long as the reason these women are getting attention is "marketing", and not, you know, their actual accomplishments. Was afraid the spotlight might be pointed away from men for a fraction of a second there.

Sheez... what's with all of you people?

You have a team there that managed to send a man-made object to Mars. Who CARES whether they are women or men? Some are women, some are men. You know why? Because they had to WORK TOGETHER to achieve a goal.

I think you guys are losing sight of this achievement.

Not acknowledging gender only makes sense when there has been no discrimination against that gender in the past. Women in STEM and especially in India have accomplished their successes in spite of heavy odds against them. Women in India (traditionally) have been expected to stay at home and take care of the family, not send rockets to Mars.

As such acknowledging their accomplishments while acknowledging their gender is not a bad thing.

I wish they could be asked, though. Some people really do not like explicitly acknowledging their special status, and wish that everyone would just focus on their accomplishments instead of their traits.

Well, this particular article was apparently written to highlight the gender of the professionals involved. So that could be why that aspect is drawing more attention than the accomplishment itself.

The publisher of the article cares - they chose to highlight that aspect.

it was partially a woman-made object

Like I said not that there's anything wrong with that.

Well, 'The Martian' made the money spent on it and more. It is up for debate how much the rocket sent to Mars has given back on the investment. And by this I mean that it's an apples to oranges comparison.

It's not a problem with the investment itself but inability of economics to evaluate such investment decisions. A lot of externalities like positive PR for the scientific progress of the country, research outputs that can benefit in other areas, etc., can't be evaluated with just money. Not in the least in the timelines that investment firms (and movie industry) usually work at.

> research outputs that can benefit in other areas

This is the most important thing. A lot of military technology in India, especially missile tech, originated at ISRO. And was spearheaded by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who worked at both ISRO and DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization).


I don't know. There was a lot of R&D that went into that probe. That was the FIRST probe to ever have that type of methane sensor put into interplanetary orbit. I would think the intellectual property would be worth quite a bit.

You mean the methane sensor which doesn't actually measure methane? Yes, there's a lot of learning in this space probe.

If it had worked, yes.

>And by this I mean that it's an apples to oranges comparison.

Sadly, almost anyone responding to you is not understanding this. I had the exact same thought when I read the headline (even before I knew this was about India or women - I was expecting some private enterprise...).

Your comment doesn't take away from the achievement. Comparing it to the cost of a movie is just pointless.

> It is up for debate how much the rocket sent to Mars has given back on the investment

ISRO actually has a commercial satellite launching arm that does make money.


wow! what a short sighted comment!!

Investing in space exploration may not give you returns on investment in short run but it helps humanity learn more about the vast expanse that surrounds us and affects our day to day lives.

So, it literally is "up for debate."

I don't think the GP intended to make a comment on just how big or small the return was.

> made the money spent

Transfer of wealth is not the same as consumption of resources

You should read the Paul Graham essay on wealth, specifically the "Pie Fallacy" paragraph. Hopefully it'll be insightful. :)


yep, I understand that "wealth" isn't a zero-sum concept.

Perhaps I should've chosen my words more carefully, because I am emphasizing the 'consumption of "natural" resources', more than to "wealth".

(If we're going to keep using the word "wealth", a movie may produce intangible "wealth" in the form of happiness, among other things)

Paul Graham is wrong. There's a finite amount of wealth. His idea of "creating wealth" is simply expending energy in order to transform some thing into a more valuable configuration; both fixing a car and writing a computer program fall into the category of rearranging atoms into more valuable configuration. But energy itself is also a form of wealth, and there's only so much of it in the universe (and, more relevantly, on Earth) and only so much available to be used per unit of time.

In other words, you can bake another pie, but not without using some of the flour in your pantry and some gas to run the oven. Once the flour runs out, you're done baking pies.

This is a complete non-sequitur. What you've said is that energy is a form of wealth, and energy is finite, therefore wealth is finite. It doesn't begin to follow; what about forms of wealth other than energy? You even admit those exist when you say "transform [something] into a more valuable configuration".

The only other forms of wealth are matter, which is even more limited than energy, and information, which is theoretically infinite but practically requires matter and/or energy to be stored and/or processed.

Can you give an example of a form of wealth that's infinite in amount?

Let's wait until we've built an energy-capturing shell around the sun before we start using your ideas in arguments.

Even if we built a Dyson sphere, we would not be creating wealth, we would just be making available to ourselves more of the wealth that's already out there.

Also, there is no such thing as farming, because the terrestrial carbon cycle is zero-sum

I'm not sure what it is you're saying.

So if solar flux is zero-sum, then farmers are appropriating sunlight that would otherwise be productive in other ways. All they're doing is using carbon as energy transport, not "creating" anything per se.

What I'm saying is your idea is insane.

I didn't think "the universe has a finite capacity" to be such a controversial idea.

Look, if you use land for farming then you can't use it for something else, right? And the Earth has a finite surface, right? So once all arable land has been farmed and all other land has been allocated for other uses, then necessarily land allocation will become a zero sum game.

If wealth can just be created ex nihilo then human population should be able to grow without bounds, no? The pie is a lie, after all. We can just bake more pies. I don't see how that's possible when both space and food production capacity are bounded.

I'm not sure what you both are on about regarding entropy and cycles, but my point was that raw materials can be used in different ways, productively (converting those raw materials/labor to a more useful form) and wastefully (converting those raw materials/labor to a form that has no "durable value", even if some people make "money"/"wealth").

If all things are made of matter and energy and matter and energy are limited, wealth is therefore limited.

You are correct, this is a fundamental truth of reality. If the root of all things is limited, everything that extends from it is limited.

In fact thanks to entropy one can say wealth is not only limited, but tends towards zero.

In that case the amount of energy in the universe is infinite.

As far as we can tell, it's not.

Apparently, the methane sensor was defective and the data it sent was unusable: http://www.space.com/34943-india-mars-orbiter-mission-methan...

It appears to have been a design issue and not necessarily due to the time constraints placed on engineering to launch the spacecraft. Looks like there would have been a strong chance of this occurring anyway, as the initial assumptions of type of data to send back for analysis were insufficient.

Even taking into consideration cost of labour, it seems like US manufacturing and infrastructure costs are excessively bloated. Is there any way to reduce it while still maintaining an acceptable level of risk?

We are probably not taking enough risk, esp. for manned missions. If qualified astronauts are willing to take a 10% risk of death, why spend far more to engineer for a sub-1% risk? Over time risk declines with more missions and experience.

Because in case of the astronaut's death, public opinion of the organization diminishes. You could say that the astronaut's life is more valuable to the organization than the astronaut himself

That's what I was thinking too. Looking back at Apollo, it seems like they were far more willing to tolerate a higher % risk. What changed? The lack of competition with the USSR? A general shift in our culture?

It's not only the US, risk aversion has increased all over Europe, as well. Drink bottled water, travel to safe destinations, god forbid you find an insect or even hair in your food, don't let the kids outside by themselves, don't play with dangerous things like electrical equipment or chemicals, don't move unless you know someone in that new city, etc.

I don't know why, maybe the media's constant reporting of the worst things has taken its toll, maybe it's the government micromanaging everything, but most people today are afraid of risks of any kind.

I had the opportunity a few years ago to see Buzz Aldrin speak at Facebook for the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11. Someone asked him about the speech that was prepared for President Nixon in the event that Neil and Buzz had been stranded on the Moon; Buzz's answer was basically that he wasn't worried since the engineers had told them they had a ~95% chance of making it back to Earth safely, which I thought was interesting, since I have no idea how idea how they could be that confident about doing something so risky for the first time (although I guess the different pieces of hardware involved had been tested on prior missions).

> What changed? The lack of competition with the USSR?

That exactly.

I imagine NASA became a lot more risk averse after actually losing astronauts in the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

If I recall, quite a few astronauts were killed on the way to the moon.

3 died on the ground during a test exercise. No American astronaut died _in space_ until the Challenger explosion.

> No American astronaut died _in space_ until the Challenger explosion.

No American astronaut died in space then, either.

No American astronaut has ever died in space. The astronauts of Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia all died in the Earth's atmosphere.

You must be fun at parties.

It's another victim of Cost Disease: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost...

>The first New York City subway opened around 1900... it suggests costs of... $1-4 million per kilometer... inflation-adjusted equivalent of $100 million/kilometer today... a new New York subway line being opened this year costs about $2.2 billion per kilometer, suggesting a cost increase of twenty times...

I don't think U.S. costs are bloated when it comes to these types of applications, where perfection is pretty much a requirement.

On the other hand, if you just want to make a million doodads and sell them to consumers, U.S. costs are outrageous. I was trying to get 500 of a machined part made recently and the quotes from U.S. manufacturers were 40-100x higher than the quotes from China.

Isn't that coupled to real estate costs, via salaries?

It looks like their payload was 2,900 lbs to orbit, and then they used engines on the orbiter to spiral up and enter mars injection orbit. Total scientific payload was only 30 lbs.

It's unclear from Wikipedia whether the booster put it into LEO or closer to GTO, but it appears it has has the capability to put 3k lbs near GTO.

For contrast, a Falcon 9 can put 18k lbs in GTO for $62M, so maybe a 1,800 lb scientific payload to Mars. But that doesn't include payload costs and payload development cost, so probably well over $100M. And building a probe in 18 months has to be really hard.

It will be interesting if Falcon 9 prices drop because of re-usability, say to $30M, whether that will open up the opportunity to do lots of custom probes to inner planets and asteroid belt.

Haha wow I can't believe the negativity in these comments. Congratulations to this team for a big achievement! I'm in support of anything that gets us closer to a multiplanetary society. Cheaper space technology is one of those things, even better that a lot of women were involved on the the job, that's inspiring. Kudos to this team!

>Haha wow I can't believe the negativity in these comments.

To be fair, the article's presentation rather invites them. It's basically presented as "Look what these Indian women accomlished for 10X less money than your male-dominated American groups spent." It's put Americans and males on the defensive, so naturally they will defend...

There's no reason American men can't see this project as a success and an inspiration, instead of some kind of indictment on their gender or whatever.

The parent comment did not blame the project, but the article.

Wow! That's my whole point though. Can't we just say congrats for doing something so spectacular and leave it at that? Haven't men had enough victories?

Btw - I'm a man.

Sure, and we should.

But it's the difference between me saying "I did this cool thing, check it out." and "I did this thing, and it's way better that what you've been doing."

The former statement is likely to elicit praise and appreciation; the latter is likely to prompt a challenge to your assertion. It's just human nature.

That's not surprising. Hollywood is egregiously wasteful in its spending. If it takes $100M to film a movie, that equates to ~100 Series A rounds. With a ~80% write-off rate, that's ~20 successful companies for roughly the same money (except the money won't be sitting at the bottom of your DVD rack a year later).

Yeah, but Hollywood tends to make money back from their films, which allows them to spend money like that...

The phrase "cost to make" is a problem here. Most of the millions in movies are spent to claim a share of a fixed-size amount of our collective attention. You could "make" an identical video artifact for a small fraction of The Martian's budget. It just wouldn't get seen.

Also, the actual Titanic sank in less time than the Titanic in the movie.

And the attack on Pearl Harbor was shorter than the movie version.

"These Scientists Sent a Rocket to Mars"

These and other scientists who worked on the mission to be more precise.

While comparing Frugal Engineering vs Art. Cost does not seem like the valid factor to compare. Also, Wages in India are paltry compared to the USA.

Not totally true. These scientists do make quite a lot of money. Also, their life is well set - they get cheap housing, cheap food, cheap consumer goods, free healthcare, etc., Even in terms of Indian standards, these scientists get ridiculous subsidies for everything so much so that they can simply put all their money in a bank without any living expenses. Not to mention other benefits like an official car with a driver, VIP status (if you are level E or above), etc., If all you measure is money, maybe they can't match up with any scientist working in the US. If you measure by living standards, they are much better off.

I know plenty of Indian and Chinese people who moved to Canada despite becoming relatively poorer in goods and services.

There is a lot of value in law and order, education, clean air, and political stability.

That is one more thing that these folks from ISRO and big Indian organizations enjoy. They are usually out of cities and are completely self-sufficient. You rarely if ever get out of your organizational town, and the town itself has lots of greenery.

But Martian movie made more than the money spent on it.

It's not about who made how much money. It's about redefining the economics of space exploration. Comparing it to a movie makes it easier to understand.

Yes, you said right !Its easy to understand

And ISRO's PR was boosted astronomically (pun intended) by this; their commercial satellite launching arm surely benefited tons from this exposure.


> Shut up please.

Comments like this aren't ok on HN.

We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13897166 and marked it off-topic.

Wow, literal quotas? That's just discriminatory.

"Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them": https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Such discussions are tedious, and tedium is an enemy here.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13896887 and marked it off-topic.

Given this topic is kind of important, especially to hackers and founders who decide who gets hired and why, this is not a topic I feel should be considered a flamewar topic, and it definitely is not tedious. I will not avoid such discussion here. With that said, I'll be sure to add more substance to my posts in the future.

A topic can be both important and tedious. Tedium comes from repetition. Of the two values, avoiding tedium is the higher priority on HN.

It's for the same reason that we ask people not to conduct political and other battles on HN. Those may be important but they're also extremely repetitive. Indeed, anyone who enters into any kind of battle needs to gird themselves for repetition, otherwise the more patient side will win. It's not hard to see how incompatible this is with intellectual curiosity, the guiding value of this site. Battles have to be off-topic here or a site based on intellectual curiosity becomes impossible.

All gender-based quotas are discriminatory. Even a 50% quota would be. Professional choices should not be made based on gender.

If you think that is discriminatory, India also has caste based and in certain cases religion based quotas.

Declaring it doesn't make it so. Sometimes you have to push things in the direction you want them to go.

Sometimes it's called manipulation.

so is not having women in STEM. Pick your poison.

Given the fact that nearly every major corporation enacts some sort of affirmative action hiring system, women have every incentive to go into STEM in the US, yet are choosing other careers, which should be their right. Equal opportunity should be our goal, not forced diversity quotas.

As an aside, I don't hear many people complaining about the lack of diversity in other careers like plumbing, HVAC, or logging. Why do you think that is?

Maybe because plumbing and HVAC aren't growing at the same exponential rate as IT. Few fields are.

Maybe because by pure statistics[1] or by anecdote men tend to have greater upper body strength than women. This matters when replacing 50x 10kg condenser coils or carrying 10 meter long segments of steel pipe up stairs. But it doesn't matter at all when solving problems in front of a keyboard and a compiler.

[1] one example in hand grip strength - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17186303

Why should exponential growth be a prerequisite for equality?

In the long run it shouldn't be.

In the short term, it means firing experienced people of one class to hire inexperienced people of another. Fast growth means that equality can be reached faster with just equal training and hiring.

I see what you're saying and it makes sense. I disagree with the underlying assumption that differences between men and women are purely cultural and that all nonphysical jobs should be evenly distributed among the sexes, but if you disagree, then what you are saying would be a great way to create a more even distribution between the sexes.

> As an aside, I don't hear many people complaining about the lack of diversity in other careers like plumbing, HVAC, or logging. Why do you think that is?

It's because you're not paying attention. All of those have been mentioned on HN before, and each of them have programmes to increase the diversity of the workforce.

Here's a post from a year ago that mentions forestry, and plumbing: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11232237#11234613

I expected that to be a post to an actual discussion, not a link to one of your own posts which nobody actually responded to.

It also sidesteps the point that there's an orders of magnitude difference in how much effort goes towards getting women into safe and high-paying male-dominated jobs compared to dangerous low-paying male-dominated jobs.

>I expected that to be a post to an actual discussion, not a link to one of your own posts which nobody actually responded to.

I laughed, that's some n-gate quality material right there.

But that's the point - OP wasn't trying to have a discussion, OP was making the same tedious point that has been refuted countless times on HN, let alone elsewhere.

Every single time this discussion happens someone will make the same stupid point - "What about women in X?" or "What about men in Y?"

And every single time someone has already posted a link to a programme to increase the numbers of women in X or the numbers of men in Y.

It's dumb and it's lazy, especially so because this information is trivially easy to find.

> there's an orders of magnitude difference in how much effort goes towards getting women into safe and high-paying male-dominated jobs compared to dangerous low-paying male-dominated jobs.


Grandparent comment was saying "X is bigger than Y", saying "Y is not zero" misses the point.

sqeaky's comment offers an explanation. I don't fully agree with it but it's a productive step forward in a discussion. When you use words like ignorant, tedious, stupid, dumb and lazy while failing to refute the argument it doesn't make you or your side look any better. I look at sqeaky's comment and have to admit I can see where they're coming from, meanwhile I look at your comments and wonder why you think you've just knocked this one out of the park.


Do you really need proof that more effort is going towards getting women into jobs from Column A than Column B? You had to resort to linking one of your own comments from a middle-popularity post on a fairly small website from a year ago. I could easily find videos of world leaders saying "This is important"

But you can just clear your cookies, go to google and see how "women in ____" auto-completes, then see how many results each phrase gets. You may not see an "orders of magnitude" of difference but you won't be able to act like there's equal attention going in each direction either.

Of course there will be some people pushing for that, but it isn't pushed for nearly as much as in tech.

Do you have data that indicates the number of females in STEM fields is due to discrimination?

What is the alternative hypothesis?

I don't think that logic applies, or results in too shallow an observation. If you reverse it, say for men and the profession of dental hygienists, could you say the field has fewer men because of discrimination?

There are likely many reasons as to why there are fewer women in STEM fields than men. Culture and socio-economics are two very big factors being completely dismissed here.

Chalking everything up to discrimination is intellectually lazy (unless there's good data presented and indicating that to be fact), and does nothing to help the situation. If you don't fully understand the root cause, how can you resolve the problem?

There are plenty of alternative hypotheses. For example lack of role models encouraging advancement, gender stereotypes reducing intake, and brain differences that make the subject a better fit for men.

We should, of course, attempt to address and improve on all of the possible explanations except the last. If it isn't the last and we make the mistake of assuming that one, then there is harm in that assumption. If the last does contribute, then there is little harm finding that out after making an honest attempt to improve things. Because there are bound to be multiple contributing causes, and you'll at least make the situation better.

Women are too goddamn smart to put up with the bullshit in tech so they go elsewhere if they have a chance, is my working hypothesis.

Thanks for the link to Roy Baumeister, his work is stunning in its grasp IMHO

Peer pressure, mostly in the form of Big Media.

Everyone suffers from peer pressure. That is not a gender based thing.


We detached this flagged subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13896250.

Do you mean comparing a Hollywood movie to a Mars rocket is an apples to apples comparison ? Movie budget is dependent on actors, CGI and marketing. I'm sure if they had hired Matt Damon to ride their rocket to Mars, it might have doubled the costs of their mission.


I think because they've been a member for less than a year.

Followed up by the most useless comment I have ever read on HN.

It's a rocket to Mars. That's always cool.

However, there is a big difference in sending a rocket to Mars with 2015 technology vs. 1960's technology in terms of cost, reliability, materials, etc.

I am confused as to why you are bringing up 1960's technology? I don't see any comparisons anywhere to the original NASA programs of the sixties.

By implication. Quoting:

"Only 40 percent of missions sent to Mars by major space organizations — NASA, Russia’s, Japan’s, or China’s — had ever been a success. No space organization had entered Mars’s orbit on its first attempt."

Those first attempts were all on quite a bit older technology.

Don't get me wrong, the engineering is still really hard. And the sensor technology is cutting edge. But the breathless marketing prose could use some toning down.

What a horrible title.

Into the Wild was a movie about a homeless traveler. It cost $15million to make.

No offense to the Martian mission but I probably got better enjoyment and insight out of the movie so far than the actual mission. Not that it is or should be the only metric, but is the metric that matters to me today.


NY"rulez" -_-

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