Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Her story is trully inspiring! She seems like a really likable person, has been hard working, with great results, making a major contribution. The photo with her and the hard drives is amazing and I am sure she will inspire many to enter science.

However, I think to call her "the woman behind the first black hole image" is a hyperbole. It makes it sound as if she was _the one person_ responsible that all this came about. -- But that is not the case. Arguably, there are others who have contributed as much if not more. This is what makes me somewhat feel that this focus on her is not quite fair.

Coverage in mainland Europe has been different so far: Prof Falcke gets a lot of credit for the image/project. Falcke is heading one of the major teams that contributed to the project. In fact, many here attribute the conception of the project to him. But how many in the English speaking sphere have heard or will ever hear about Falcke? Why is that?

My personal guess is that the reason for this is: 1) The Anglo-american media were looking for inspiring EHT scientists from the English-speaking world. 2) Bouman fit that description best.

So, imv, something like "The inspiring story of Katie Bouman" and some credit to some of the other major figures like Falcke would have been fairer.

> This is what makes me somewhat feel that this focus on her is not quite fair.

Thought experiment: if you saw an article titled "Jony Ive: The Man Behind The iPhone" would you be commenting on how unfair it is to single him out? After all, he just designed the thing, a huge team of people built the software and the hardware that actually made it possible.

Yes, absolutely. I've made comments before to the effect of: I cringe hard enough to actually feel physical discomfort every time a headline refers to a team effort of SpaceX as "Elon Musk's Rocket."

Ok, how about "Turing: the genius that cracked the ENIGMA code"?

I would start by informing them that ENIGMA was actually broken by Poland, and they invited the British two weeks before the German invasions to show them how it worked and give them a prototype enigma breaking machine. They didn't want the technique and knowledge in how to break enigma to be lost after Germany invaded. The French also got a copy, and it was actually the French intelligence service that had gathered the initial data and it was unknown to them that this enabled the polish to break ENIGMA.

What turning did was to take the initial prototype they received and build a even more powerful and refined version. In particular he improved the technique so it broke the naval version of enigma which was more complicated than the army version that the polish had broken earlier. This was in part possible because the British had captured a working naval enigma from a German submarine.

(A lot of this comes a book called The Code Book by Simon Singh. The last chapter on modern ciphers is a bit dated but the chapters on enigma was quite good.

Well, other arguments aside, there is a little bit of a difference between a single-system ENIGMA and building multi-system spaceships.

Well since he founded and owns the company.. legally it would be his Rocket, would it not?

Does anyone here believe that rocket system would exist without Musk?

> Thought experiment: if you saw an article titled "Jony Ive: The Man Behind The iPhone" would you be commenting on how unfair it is to single him out?

Yes, and that’s what happens in each of those hyperbolic articles (that are mostly about Jobs, but same thing)

this is hard to say, tbh.

first: by alluding to Ive, you insert a gender component. i don't want to make this about gender - which is what happened itt. as mentioned, i think the difference in focus is because of geo-cultural reasons. another piece of evidence for this hypothesis comes from the following: over here, the EU also gets a lot of praise for providing the main chunk of the funding for the project. a quick check tells me that this detail is often omitted in US articles about the project. also, a note on myself: i work in a field where the majority of people are female. so is my boss. her work is great and i love working here. at the same time, i am aware that the bar to get here was higher for my female colleagues than it is for men. also, i see the glass ceiling having an effect on the careers of my sisters and my female friends. and i am painfully aware of the struggles that my mum and other women of her generation had/have to go through. so i consider myself a feminist, in the sense that i believe that we should have full equality and that we do not have it yet.

second: think iphone, i think jobs. so what "Jony Ive: The Man Behind The iPhone" would imply to me is that Ive is _the one person_ that had the biggest impact on the development of the iphone. i don't know enough about Ive to evaluate this. but here's the thing: if it turned out that another person contributed as much if not more than Ive, then i'd say: hey, it's nice that the article introduces Ive and gives him some credit, but let's not exaggerate and let's not forget about the other people who have also greatly contributed to the project.

edit: to clarify: i find it hard to say, because it's somewhat hypothetical. i truly hope for myself that i would react the same way / that gender has no impact on my thought process.

> first: by alluding to Ive, you insert a gender component

Personally, I want to say the gender component actually happened right about here:

>> Her story is trully inspiring! She seems like a really likable person

We have interesting ways and subtext when we talk about people that show our biases. Actually beyond that the entire article isn't anything about asking Katie questions or how she came about her algorithm. It's more about her fast rising popularity. It's an article that says a woman did something without saying that. I'm not judging if that's offensive or merely a reflection on how we relay news given our society.

The title of the article reveals a lot about the biases at play here. "Katie Bouman, the computer scientist behind..." - keyword 'the'. She isn't 'the' computer scientist behind it, she is 'a' computer scientist behind it. If it were merely a case of putting an interesting person with likable facial features at the heart of the story the news articles' titles and descriptions could actually be accurate. In actuality we have misplaced attribution caused by the biases of the news media. Whether they're political or not, its easy to see through them and it adds an unnecessary off-note to the otherwise interesting scientific achievement.

EDIT: it looks like the title of the article has either changed or SEO causes some to see different titles than others. Regardless my initial comment should still be valid.

The fact that you are making it about her appearance instead of her scientific achievement is you, my dude, not the article and not the media. She is first author, she came up with the algorithm, she did this thing, and all your attempts to belittle that just prove Joanna Russ’ absolute correctness.

Actually her appearance is relevant to the discussion at hand, within the context of this specific thread. There is no belittling going on here.

I would, it's just like Steve Jobs being a* hole while taking credit for everyone's work. In those cases it's a result of hierarchy in this case it's a case of the media looking for a media darling for their story. In either case it's not painting reality correctly. That being said it's not her fault and she should be proud of her accomplishment. It's the media which likes to paint pictures of reality like this, to single out a single person to take credit for what a team of researchers did or what a corporation did.

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I disliked the guy after hearing how he was promoted.

Make a BBC Horizon story about how he came to his best work and about him. That's cool. But to frame it as just being him and not the others behind the work.. it's nothing but hero worship.

Yes - this is a constant peeve of mine. Stories are so much more powerful if there's a single inspirational character, but that's rarely how these types of scientific projects or development efforts came to fruition - especially in Jony Ive's case.

People do that all the time when everything Apple gets attributed to Steve Jobs.

Jony Ive actually was truly essential to the work behind the iPhone, so it wouldn't be unfair to single him out.

I hate it when news outlets and movie production companies focus on individuals and ignore the team effort and dynamic, and it's not because I care about distributing credit. I want them to tell more stories about teams and communities working together to build things, not more lone genius stories.

I get it. I truly do.

But consider the context: This picture of a blackhole is going around along with an iconic picture of a woman with a ton of hard-drives that resembles the iconic picture of Margaret Hamilton with a stack of papers. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows little to nothing about this project. What questions do you think people have?

Headlines have to create irresistible questions that lure people in and this one is using the tried and true "Who's this genius?" formula.

Once they've grabbed this casual reader (see headline), they're not going to dive too deep into the project. This isn't serious science journalism, this is a human interest story in the science section.

Why did they pick her? Because she lead the team and was a key figure in conceiving and implementing the algorithm. Because she was already the face, spokesperson and active promoter for this project. Look at her TED talk from 2017.

I get it. Tons of people deserve credit. More importantly, the story of how this team collaborated should be told. But that's not what this profile piece is about.

But let's get serious. You're critiquing the accuracy of a very casual profile piece for average readers. Most of them really don't care what statements are slightly hyperbolic, they just want to understand the gist of the project and her role.

The ironic thing is that this seems to be a case when someone doing the science gets to represent the project and get credit rather than just institutions and senior researchers.

> Margaret Hamilton with a stack of papers.

That was used to say "well women are doing something very important" (If we're truly focused on equality should be yes.. that is normal.. but why is that important to advertise that message)

The feeling that I'm getting from all of this is that the result is showcased to the side and they're trying to make her into a celebrity. I would love to hear her praise "her team" (her team is a subset of people in the whole project) Although, I don't think she has enough experience to realize that it's a good thing to do. (That's something you get from working in teams outside academia)

If you go to the moon, you don't just praise the one guy who did it. You bring the whole group of astronauts who went and did something. If they're smart they're going to admit that there were a ton of people who helped.

EDIT-Update on the comment about the team praise: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19638629

> I would love to hear her praise "her team" (her team is a subset of people in the whole project) Although, I don't think she has enough experience to realize that it's a good thing to do.

She did that in the TED talk. And in the article linked above. And basically everywhere else she's spoken.

Oh.. I had no idea. That's awesome. I made the assumption that she did the academic thing which is "i did this" signed advisor. The assumption was based on the focus of the articles. (editorial bias)

No need to avoid your own responsibility and bias in making that assumption. It's not accurate to blame it on the media coverage alone. Strikes me as more like confirmation bias around what your expectations are for academics, women, or both.

Excuse me?

I admitted that I was incorrect in my impression. I could have deleted the original comment but posted an admission that I was too quick to jump to conclusions.

You should be aware of what the media is trying to say, and how it's presented. This comment section is showing how different countries are presenting the same situation.

Confirmation bias in academics:

It's very common to escalate the work from undergrad->grad->postdoc->professors. (Doing the most work to the least in that order). It's pretty terrible.. but that's how it operates. Does the advisor do much? Do they get their name on the paper, yes. (In many times at the top)

Women- Her gender doesn't matter on this. The work she did for her research is awesome, it's clearly her work. (It's similar to super-resolution) This wasn't a single I just applied my algorithm and everything happened. Lots of people were involved in collecting, cleaning, managing, and adapting her improvement to existing CV algorithms to reproduce what a blackhole looks like.

Not arguing that you didn't admit the assumption was incorrect ... Just that in saying it was based on the editorial bias in the articles you're ignoring your own participation in making the assumption.

You admit you were too quick to jump to conclusions: but I'd argue you were quick because those conclusions "seemed right" based on your own biases. I dunno. Maybe your statement "Although, I don't think she has enough experience to realize that it's a good thing to do." didn't have anything to do with her being a woman and it's just a coincidence that women struggle with being seen as less experienced than their male peers. It just came across to me as a really patronising and insulting thing to say, and hard thing to blame on the reporting of others.

From the article:

> But Dr Bouman, now an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology, insisted the team that helped her deserves equal credit.

> The effort to capture the image, using telescopes in locations ranging from Antarctica to Chile, involved a team of more than 200 scientists.

> "No one of us could've done it alone," she told CNN. "It came together because of lots of different people from many different backgrounds."

> "We're a melting pot of astronomers, physicists, mathematicians and engineers, and that's what it took to achieve something once thought impossible," Dr Bouman says.

I'm going to edit the parent comment to show my response to that:


Next time, just don't comment if your contribution is to cast doubt on the experience and intentions of a woman based only on your bias.

I don't selectively cast doubts on the experience and intentions of a woman because they are a woman. That would be sexist.

The suggestion that people should avoid casting doubt/criticism due to a person's gender is sexist.

"I don't think she has enough experience"

You see how sexist that assumption is, right? Don't be that guy. Give her the benefit of the doubt you'd give a male researcher.

In the 2 comments you made to me, you're assuming my premise is to criticize her over her gender.

My comment would have remained the same if Dr. Bouman identified as male. The age of an individual when they get their PhD is somewhere around 27-29 (depends on when they start grad school.. it's usually about 5 years) People with more experience realize it's better to work and recognize the team rather than not. Kids fresh out of school just don't have that experience.

I don't understand how "the woman behind the first black hole image" is hyperbole. She's a woman and she's behind the first black hole image.

I don't think anybody truly believes that taking images of black holes is a one-person job. And the title doesn't imply that. Neither does the next, boldface paragraph in the article:

> A 29-year-old computer scientist has earned plaudits worldwide for helping develop the algorithm that created the first-ever image of a black hole.

Immediately followed by:

> Katie Bouman led development of a computer program that made the breakthrough image possible.

The problem is with the article "the". She's one of many people behind the first black hole image.

It doesn't say "A woman behind", it says "THE woman behind". Big difference.

I agree. She's said many times she wasn't the only one involved and it's really a team win. The issue is that the media likes to have one winner and she was it. It's another version of the media dumbing down science coverage.

It's not dumbing down science. Is making science relatable to an audience that otherwise would not care much about an image of a black hole. Having a "hero" in a story serves a purpose (many purposes, in this case) and it happens in every single field you can imagine.

Is that sport player really a star os is he/she a star because he has an amazing team that creates the opportunities for him/her to stand out?

Is this law championed by a politician really his/her idea or does he/she have a team of advisors that helped shape it?

Nobody lives in a vacuum. There isn't a single person, dead or alive, that has accomplish anything of importance without the help of others (knowingly or unknowingly, wether directly or indirectly) but at some point you have to take that for granted, to a certain degree, and focus on the figure that drives the enterprise, or makes a new discovery thanks to previous ones, or leads a team, or publish a paper.

It's not media who loves to have a winner, in any case. It's all of us, and the media obliges because it knows that a story with a hero is better told and better heard. It just happens that for some reason, in this case, having a hero seems to be unacceptable for some and I can't quite put my finger on why...

You're wrong, she did most of the work on the algorithm to make this work: https://arxiv.org/abs/1512.01413

> However, I think to call her "the woman behind the first black hole image" is a hyperbole. It makes it sound as if she was _the one person_ responsible that all this came about.

It doesn't say that though. It says she was behind the image. And as I understand she lead one of the teams responsible for creating the image from the data. So I don't think that is particularly inaccurate as far as headlines go.


I'm reluctant to even dignify this kind of low-effort drivel with a response.

There's a bunch of other commits linked from that very same user profile, related to -- and this will blow your mind -- image reconstruction:


Even if that were not true, scientific code often does not end up public, let alone on github. Not to mention that Dr. Bouman is the first author of a closely-related paper at CVPR, which is one of the most prestigious meetings in a field of study called "computer vision": https://arxiv.org/abs/1512.01413

Obviously this was a massive team effort, but PR frenzies happen to good people all the time and I don't see anyone scrutinizing public commit counts when it's a man in a similar context.

I mocked the Basho CTO does that count?

You're right that we "don't see anyone scrutinizing public commit counts when it's a man in a similar context". Well of course! The media never promotes an inflated story of a man's accomplishments due to him being a man, so it would be silly to suspect it.

Nobody is doubting that it is possible for a woman to do impressive science.

It's just the ordinary problem of trying to promote/advance/assist a particular group of people. Any time that happens, it casts suspicion on the whole group. Both the deserving and the undeserving are suspected of having what isn't earned. Everybody in the group is thus hurt.

> The media never promotes an inflated story of a man's accomplishments due to him being a man, so it would be silly to suspect it.

Stories about men aren't thought of as being inflated "due to him being a man" because the default perspective is that men make history. Now that more awareness is being given to the contributions of overlooked women and members of other disenfranchised groups, people seem more eager to think that someone is being celebrated because of their identity.

> Nobody is doubting that it is possible for a woman to do impressive science.

Women's contributions to science and engineering have long been overlooked, if not outright doubted. Fran Allen's (the first woman to win the Turing Award) chapter in "Coders at Work" [0] is a good example.

> Seibel: So when you won the Turing, did you think to yourself, "Gee, there's another woman who should have won this a long time ago?"

> Allen: Well, the very first thing I thought about was how wonderful it was. And then I started to think about all the many other women who were never recognized at all for their work. In many cases, their work was stolen. I thought about the women who had done some very amazing things that have not been recognized, even by their peers. When I approach them and say, "You need to join some professional organizations-I'll write some recommendations for you," they kind of shy away from that.

> Seibel: So you think that part of the problem is they don't get recognized because they're not putting themselves in a place to be recognized as easily.

> Allen: Right.

> Seibel: Are there any particular folks that you would like to name-to give a little recognition now?

> Allen: Well, there's Edith Schonberg, who is a great computer scientist. In terms of technical work, it's just one first after another on some of her papers. She's had work stolen-absolutely brutally stolen. She wrote a paper on debugging of parallel code, which is a very hard problem. It was not accepted at a conference and somebody who had been on the program committee made three papers out of it. That kind of thing. It happens in our field and we don't have good ways of dealing with it.

> Seibel: And it happens more to women?

> Allen: Yes, I think it does. They were often viewed as not going to put up a fight-that they were more isolated and don't have the advocates who will deal with a famous thief. He was a famous thief, known but nobody dared touch it. And there are plenty of others way back from the Stretch days. There was a woman who essentially was the inventor of multiprogramming and credit was taken by somebody who eventually became a Turing Award winner.*

Peter Seibel. Coders at Work: Reflections of the Craft of Programming (Kindle Locations 6413-6419). Kindle Edition.

[0] http://www.codersatwork.com/fran-allen.html

cough James Watson cough

It's really short-sighted to say something like this. Committing code is actually the smallest impact you can make in a big project like this. There are way harder, more meaningful ways you can contribute to the project's success.

To call her a project manager is telling. The number of lines of code submitted is not the sole measure of contributing. She led the effort of creating the CHIRP (Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction) algorithm used to achieve this historic event.

Lines of code is not, and will never be a metric for gauging project contribution.

Most of that 850,000 lines of code is likely boilerplate setup code.

850,000 loc vs what looks to be an initial commit and a merge: https://github.com/klbouman/hopstools/commits?author=klbouma...

if I'm wrong here please point it out

Okay, how about tweets from Andrew Chael himself? https://twitter.com/thisgreyspirit/status/111651854732747571...

Incredible, that a purported programmer/software engineer in 2019 thinks that someone's Github commit history is the sum total of all their work. Not only that, you seem to be completely ignorant of how to find someone's Github commits to repos that aren't owned by their account.


You're right, I had assumed that the project that she was the owner of on her github portfolio was her primary contribution - I jumped to conclusions without digging any deeper and I'd delete the comment if Hacker News would let me.

I fear people are down voting you for having been wrong originally rather than for this comment.

Which is a shame, because we all do things this stupid sometimes and your frank admission of having done so is laudable.

Nil desperandum carborundum illegitimi.

"Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight." —Bill Gates

I created an account to let you know you should probably apologize and delete this comment. Unless you like this sort of low-effort assholery to be linked to your real name, which took me way too little time to establish.

You can't delete comments from hacker news after a certain period of time has passed and that's ok, I was wrong about the amount of work she committed and in all honesty, I didn't doubt her in any way. I looked up what she had contributed because I was curious and initially I didn't find much. I do apologize for not digger a bit deeper.

I still stand by the fact that all people's work of this magnitude should be reviewed and analyzed - it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman.

There are probably a dozen papers of this magnitude published each month across the sciences with multiple authors and github repos.

Which of them have you dug into before? Any of them?

Considering how few I was aware of the answer is zero. Let me ask you something though, why was I made aware of this discovery and not the others?

Was it because a woman participated?

No it was because of your inherent bias that motivated you into pulling out a weak data point trying to backup your false narrative to belittle her achievements. You couldn't even count her public code contributions correctly (an irrelevant stat that should've never been presented in isolation) and likely spent 0 effort in assessing the 850k LOC quoted, of only ~8% actually represented software [1].

She's done ground-breaking research, TED talks, published papers, given interviews, why didn't you try researching any of that instead? If you spent anytime watching her TED talks and interviews you would've always heard herself say it was an international team of scientists and her enthusiasm behind the historic achievement was always "we" as a collective [1], I've not heard her once take credit for the historic achievement herself, it was always "we" as a team [2].

There's so few % of women in STEM precisely because of toxic behavior like yours, instead of actively trying to downplay her achievements with misinformation, her infectious enthusiasm was an opportunity that should've been celebrated and serve as a role model for others to get into STEM. Instead your comments have been used to tarnish the entire HN community and industry overall. I hope you think of that next time you try to jump in and quickly tarnish the achievements of others, esp. when you have no comprehension of their efforts, achievements and ground breaking research [3].

[1] https://twitter.com/thisgreyspirit/status/111651854496183091...

[2] https://twitter.com/NatureNews/status/1116370136800296965

[3] https://people.csail.mit.edu/klbouman/

Maybe because it's the first ever photo of a black hole, was widely anticipated, and was published by pretty much every news organisation and was on the cover of many of them, before any interviews with her came out?

I look forward to people digging into the publication record of every Nobel Laureate next year on this site, arguing about which of them were real.

papers from Science and Nature appear hear all the time.

Regardless of all the other problems with this comment, your statement of "she doesn't have any commits" is wrong. Simply not all of her commits are linked to her GitHub account. https://github.com/klbouman/hopstools/commits/master?after=2...

I think you're looking in the wrong place. I don't see anywhere in the eat github repository where there is code similar to the CHIRP algorithm (correct me if I'm wrong). I'd be interested in seeing the actual code used to generate the image (certainly the eat repo was used, but it doesn't look to be the main algorithm?) It looks more plausible that the algorithm is in eht-imaging (https://github.com/achael/eht-imaging), but I haven't looked deeply enough yet. She contributed a lot more to that repo. And having said all that, # lines/commits isn't as important as the algorithm

From the article:

"But Dr Bouman, ...insisted the team that helped her deserves equal credit."

my criticism is not aimed at her at all - but at the media.

and yes, she emphasised this elsewhere, too, which imv shows what a great and humble person she is.

Every media article I've read cites her team-credit emphasis.

What more should the media do? "Faceless, nameless team does X, No film at 11 in case that might make someone look like they're getting too much credit."?

Every team has a leader (de facto or otherwise). Having one voice, one face for a globe-spanning team effort is the way the media can convey the amazing, awesome message to the masses in a relatable way.

> Every media article I've read cites her team-credit emphasis.

But that is the problem, actually. Simple question: Is Prof Bouman the team leader that held all this together?

In answering this, consider this is from the ERC website, which is the major funding body of the project:

> Since 2014, this six year research project is being carried out by three lead scientists and their teams; namely Professors Heino Falcke from Radboud University Nijmegen (also Chair of EHT Science Council), Michael Kramer from the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy, and Luciano Rezzolla from Goethe University Frankfurt. [0]

So to answer "What more should the media do?", my guess would be: at some point, mention Falcke, Kramer, and Rezzolla? And the ERC?

[0] https://erc.europa.eu/news/eu-funded-scientists-unveil-first...

> Simple question: Is Prof Bouman the team leader that held all this together?

Why does this bother you so much? What do you lose by her getting credit? Or anyone? What actual harm is it doing?

People generally value fairness and crediting people unfairly goes against that. If it appears to you that other members of the team might have contributed just as much or even more but weren't credited accordingly, then that goes against this "instinct", and why shouldn't it? You're missing the point, the question is whether she was unfairly credited or not.

Meanwhile, capitalism is wholly predicated on unfairness, where the "haves" exploit the "have nots" to get as much for themselves as they can.

Why does a woman getting "credited unfairly" strike a nerve when it happens every day that a CEO takes singular credit for an entire corporation worth of people's work with no "Unfair credit!" reaction?

Exactly. I can take so many examples but one that comes to mind.

The so many articles you read about Steve Jobs and the iPhone.

Did you once say/ask “it was not just Steve Jobs. It was a whole team of people who created the iPhone”?

The media and the public in general give him the credit because he led the team that developed the iPhone.

The first man to walk on the moon. He couldn’t have done it without a whole team of people working before, during and after they landed. Most of the media does not go into detail when they write stories about it.

It’s silly to say that everyone on a team should be mentioned by name in every article that comes out about an accomplishment.

This is easy peasy elementary stuff my friends: two wrongs don't make a right.

And, yes, I personally do speak out when CEOs and such take credit. [The Google Android project head is one example from recent memory].

interacting with the outside world must be exhausting with its naturally undeconstructed appearance and operation.

my criticism is not...

i mean, is it even really "your criticism?" why aren't you giving credit to others who are speculating the same issues? you're basically saying you're the first person to ever think this, did you even search for others or are you content in helping them to toil in obscurity?

Just like the Portuguese scientist involved is getting more coverage than her here in Portugal. It's just natural I guess. People want to find someone relatable.

One difference is that you're all Portuguese in Portugal. But they are not all women in the US or whatever and they will react if they sense "unfairness". There are no (substantial) non-Portuguese in Portugal to react!

Yes won't someone spare a thought for the men

No one would read that story. No one knows Katie Bouman. Everyone knows the blackhole.

You're thinking like a programmer. Think not like a programmer and then explain why the original headline is better.

Why was the article written?

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact