Nature runs with the “gender bias in particle physics” story

April 25, 2008

Zuska already mentioned the report from Sherry Towers on gender bias at the Fermilab in Illinois.
This week, however, a news focus in Nature by Geoff Brumfiel takes up the story.

Towers used data from publicly available work records to chart the careers of 57 postdoctoral researchers, including nine women, who worked on the ‘DZero’ particle detector at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, between 1998 and 2006. Towers herself worked as a postdoc on the project between 2000 and 2005. The findings of her survey were striking, she says. She claims that women did 40% more maintenance work than their male counterparts, and that female postdocs produced significantly more ‘internal papers’ per year. But based on that productivity they were only one-third as likely to be allocated conference talks as their male peers, she claims (

“Isn’t this old news? Gender bias in physics? WTF, Drugmonkey, this isn’t your beat.”
Maybe, but only until clowns like this Paul Kantorek guy pop up in the comments over at Nature.

My experience as a physicist working with the occasional female colleagues leads me to a subjective impression that women really think differently. Female thinking seems to be more lateral then vertical. By that I mean, women in physics are generally harder working than male colleagues and are great co-workers in terms of encouragement, diligence, and backup support. They do not, however, contribute a great deal of original ideas and rigorous logical analysis to the research. Female judgment seems to more emotionally biased.

Sure it’s the same bleeding stupidz antifeminist idiocy that pops up over and over again when some weebag thinks he’s being funny or wants to minimize past “indiscretions” of a famous cretin. Don’t we just get used to it?
Not when people like Carol Lee post these heartbreaking stories, I don’t (again in the comments following the Nature article).

My dad was a solid state physicist and president of a prominent university. He claimed throughout my life that women did not have the innate ability to perform well in math, and were inferior in analytical thinking. Many of his colleagues thought in these absolute terms. When I declared my major as mechanical engineering at Stanford, my dad discouraged me, claiming that I did not have the innate ability. He argued that my brother did instead, despite my higher math SAT scores (~+200 points) and more advanced training in math (beyond calculus). Also, I inherited his brain, while my brother ended up with the fuzzy non-linear thinking of my mother. Now I am a professor at a prominent university, and my brother is a tech. My dad did concede that he was wrong before passing away.

And then I think heck yeah, I’m directing my readers to this story on the off chance they haven’t seen it yet!
So go read the paper by Towers, will ya?
And then go smack some guy like Carol Lee’s father upside the head before he screws up his daughter.

7 Responses to “Nature runs with the “gender bias in particle physics” story”

  1. PhysioProf Says:

    You called Chad and Laden “weebags”!? That is so incivil!


  2. There’s a much better version of the ‘how many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb’ joke.
    Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: That isn’t funny!
    Gee, I guess that means that, in the most literal sense, this blog is a joke!


  3. PhysioProf Says:

    No, Harbison, the joke is you, you pathetic right-wing loonie bastard.
    What the fuck happened to you to turn you into such a bitter sick woman hater? What do you think you “deserved” that women took away from you?
    Job at a real university? Sex with somebody other than your hand?
    Dude, what’s up with that picture on your faculty Web page? Couldn’t you put on some decent fucking clothes, or at least some jeans that fit around your flaccid sagging stomach?
    And did you really need to stand there leering like a subway groper with that huge shaft in your hand? C’mon, dude! Way too much information!


  4. Becca Says:

    Ya know, I always wondered what was up with PP’s vitriol against right wing whackaloons… then I followed the link to Harbison’s website. EWwwwwwwwwwww. I feel dirty now.


  5. PhysioProf Says:

    Ya know, I always wondered what was up with PP’s vitriol against right wing whackaloons.

    What’s to wonder? These craven scumbags fuck up everything they come near, and piss on your leg and tell you it’s raining. They’re destroying the entire fucking world, for fuck’s sake.
    The leaders do it to line their own pockets and those of their cronies, to create a gilded-age-style corporate oligarchy with a downtrodden obedient working-class and no middle class at all. The followers do it because they are so afraid of their own shadows that they are putty in the hands of the despicable lying leaders. This shit ain’t real fucking complicated to understand.


  6. Zuska Says:

    The love of authoritarianism among the right-wing wackaloons is really scary as well. They LIKE being downtrodden, as long as they think a strong leader is the one doing the trodding.
    Plus, as a benefit, they get to blame all their misery on women, people of color, gays, you name it – anybody but the beloved leader.


  7. Reading demented nutcases such as the commenters on this thread simply emphasizes to me why we need to keep the left out of office. You reveal so much of yourselves.
    ‘The ‘huge shaft’, BTW, is an NMR probe. I hate to encourage PhysioProf’s phallic obsession (shouldn’t a biomedical researcher have recognized an NMR probe, by the way?), but it’s actually a narrow bore probe.
    Which does bring to mind the other old joke about why Radcliffe women tend to park too close to the kerb.


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