Georgi on “Women and the Future of Physics”

Howard Georgi gave a colloquium at Fermilab last week, and the slides and video from his talk are now online. He has gathered quite a lot of interesting data about women in the various sciences at the undergraduate and graduate level, and he discusses his experiences at Harvard over the years as he became more aware of the problems experienced by women studying physics. As chair of the department and in other capacities, he has tried to understand why there are so few women studying physics, significantly fewer than in the other sciences, concluding that “Many of our women physics concentrators were trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship with the Harvard Physics Department!!!”. He also concluded that it was “past time to outgrow the hypermacho lone-ranger approach to physics”, and that this would make the field more fun for everyone.

The whole issue of why so few women study physics (and math) seems to me a complicated one since it is mostly about the very complex and tricky ways in which people deal with how others expect them to fit into certain behavior and roles appropriate to their gender. I don’t think the “emotionally abusive relationship” that Georgi describes the Harvard department as having with its students is limited to the female ones. While I can say that in many ways I very much enjoyed my time as an undergraduate there, the great majority of the faculty were less than friendly to the students (with Georgi a prominent exception), and the general level of social skills of both the faculty and many of one’s fellow students left a lot to be desired. According to Georgi, changes have been made to the culture of the place and it is much more encouraging of its students. This is part of a general trend at many US institutions, partly because of increased sensitivity to gender issues, partly just because the students are paying a lot more to be there than they used to, and their increased dollars get them increased attention and respect.

Then again, they now have Lubos Motl, so the Harvard department’s traditions of hyper-aggressive behavior have not totally been lost.

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43 Responses to Georgi on “Women and the Future of Physics”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The election is not that interesting. Get to it guys. As Kurt Kobain had it: here we are now, entertain us

  2. drl: Matti – that is – well, not even wrong.

    I have no personal opinion about this. I just wanted to bring in a new point of view.
    I am not very convinced concerning the purely statistical criterion used. Believe or not, it was comparison of ratio for the lengths of index finger and ring finger: on the average 1 for math oriented and .98 for non-math oriented persons!

    Matti

  3. D R Lunsford says:

    Matti – that is – well, not even wrong.

    It is undeniably true that men are better at making cognitive maps. This is almost certainly related to skill at math, which is necessary for skill at physics theory. “Grothendieck believes…” SO? “Motl believes…” SO? I don’t give a fig what anyone believes.

    In any case, none of this means a damn thing. The phenomena are all there, not the least bit interested in the sex of the observer. The pebbly shore of the great ocean of truth is open to all waders.

    -drl

  4. In the last New Scientist (20 October 2004) there is an interesting article “Career choice begins in womb” according to which a good mathematician or physicist might have a more feminine brain. There is evidence that men in these disciplines are being exposed to a female pattern of aestrogen and testosterone in the womb. The absence of women from mathematics and physics would therefore look even more a cultural phenomenon (around 1984 immediately after super string revolution I participated a conference in which there were around 100 men and not a single woman: quite an experience!).

    Grothendienck has mentioned that he believed of having more feminine than male brain. In some New Scientist for some weeks ago (unfortunately cannot give the issue number) there was a little article mentioning that mathematician’s brain hemispheres are in more intense communication making possible rapid interaction between holistic and analytic modes of thinking. Higher connectedness indeed characterizes feminine brain.

    Matti Pitkanen

  5. Plato says:

    Maybe the female and male tendencies use the neurons, to manifest ideas? That would mean gender, has nothing to do with what the brain manifests, just that it does?

  6. Frank says:

    An old problem…. but consider this angel: Why do we try to get more women into physics but, for example, vets or literature don’t try to get more men?
    In Germany there are more women then men studying to begin with. If you balance the sciences you’ll end up with vastly more women studying. This alone indicates that an isolated women oriented physics program must fail. You could also ask why so many men study physics, and try to curtail the male population in the degree. Doesn’t sound entirely logical does it?

    Any reasonable approach to the issue would by neccesity need to be interdisciplinary and look at both genders.

  7. sol says:

    Should read with link:

    One hopes that finding psychological processes embedded in thinking might have found some benefit in seeing GHZ entanglement as a process that brings forth mulptiple firing of neuron connectors(maybe like a supersymmetrical reality without the brain burning up?).

  8. sol says:

    One hopes that finding psychological processes embedded in thinking might have found some benefit in seeing GHZ entanglement as a process that brings forth mulptiple firing of neuron connectors(maybe like a supersymmetrical reality without the brain burning up?).

    I had this under the heading of Venn Logic and Transactional analysis

    Human Experience Masks Inherent Patterns

    Parent EGO

    As we grow up we take in ideas, beliefs, feelings and behaviours from our parents and caretakers. If we live in an extended family then there are more people to learn and take in from. When we do this, it is called introjecting and it is just as if we take in the whole of the care giver. For example, we may notice that we are saying things just as our father, mother, grandmother may have done, even though, consciously, we don’t want to. We do this as we have lived with this person so long that we automatically reproduce certain things that were said to us, or treat others as we might have been treated.

    http://www.businessballs.com/transactionalanalysis.htm

    In this the EGO states would be extremely important, and if such thinking is harmonically driven, then what would one hope to accomplish in the adult ego?

    Sly words of Osama Bin Ladin, about kings, and states, in light of countries and their leaders? His distain for life, and we discover another Wotan as hitler disguised?

    In cosmological proportions, does it matter if it is male or female? I don’t think so, as the emergence of neurons are projected by the minds thinking?

    So maybe in Sean’s Preposterous universe, that CW just linked again, one might have to see the context of Andrey Kravstov’s early universe as , the neuron connectors of the cosmos, as strings that eventually clump, as neuronic discriptors? Look at my comment there under Arrow of time.

    Entropic consideration in belief structures, and ideas, theories, when at a early time, it was all one?

  9. Jesse says:

    Lubos wrote:
    Observationally, the number of neurons is correlated with the probability that a person ends in physics.

    What’s your source for this claim? Do you believe there is less of a correlation between neuron number and the probability a person ends up in math? If not, why are there more women in math than in physics?

  10. sol says:

    I just wanted to share a interesting perspective.

    DocN,

    Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. Ring of Power was interesting.

    Strange that we could have seen A Jungian Understanding of the Wagners Ring cycle, portrayed in todays world and how could have this been accomplished. But by re-introducing a fictional story and embueing it with the archetypal structures of what Jean Shinida Bolen called, “The Abandon Child, The Authoritarian Father, and the Disempowered Feminine.”

    I was very intrigued by the way in which this story was used and applied. A Alice in Wonderland Fairy tale and what could we have learnt? Is it unrealistic to give such fairy tales the substance of importance, not to have recognized the structures underneath, and to have recognized the way in which things could have been transmitted? Have mathematicians been guilty of same?

    Another mask I suppose, but it gave the flare of understanding that we might of not grasped otherwise and how deep a impression( emotional imprinting) could have been dealt with such attempts?

    I think we have learnt to conceal our histories in our view points. Learnt to build structures. Have we missed the emotive consequences of such attachments, of that same history?

    Imagine, Mother branes and baby universes and the intellectuals have never really left home:)Abstract spaces, like dreams?

    Mothers and Fathers are in all of us? As a harmonic principle, selective actions above intellectual considerations that are sound judgements(identified) particle considerations?:)

    It’s all creative math and Physics?????? about the nature’s reality, recogizing these principles in our natural world.

    Regards

  11. Lubos Motl says:

    http://motls.blogspot.com/

    I’ve expanded my article, added links to many documents about the difference between male and female brains, and analyzed “aggressiveness, competitiveness, and arrogance”.

  12. Arun says:

    Three proposed explanations for why the proportion in women in physics is small, that have been proposed are:

    1. Nature (i.e., different biology of men vs. women)
    2. Nurture (i.e., differences in how society as a whole brings up boys and girls)
    and
    3. The culture of physics itself (not the content of the science, but the way physics is taught, faculty are appointed, how groups of physicists interact among themselves, etc. )

    Now, while the representation of women in the higher levels of mathematics seems to be as dismal as that in physics, at least as of 1997 in the US ( see the graph http://www.physicstoday.org/pt/vol-53/iss-7/p52b.html )
    women were taking about 45% of the bachelor’s degrees in math as compared to less than 20% in physics.

    It would be interesting to see arguments that these figures do not support the explanation #3; or that these figures do not rule out #1. and #2.

    -Arun

  13. Lubos Motl says:

    Hi Arun! I’ve already answered this question many times.

    Observationally, the number of neurons is correlated with the probability that a person ends in physics. There are good reasons to think that this correlation has a biological explanation, but the system under consideration is just too complex to make any definitive statements about it, and moreover it is not my field and you can ask specialists who know much more about the interplay between brain’s anatomy and physiology.

    On the other hand, there is no doubt that one of the most important evolutionary steps that we had to make since the era we were monkeys was a growth of the cortex – the advanced part of brain. Because of this difference, chimps and gorillas only have 7-9 billion neurons, and be sure that this is one of the numbers that makes a difference. (Rats have 65 million only.)

  14. Anonymous says:

    “In contrast, 47 percent of physics faculty members in Hungary […] are women”

    Although i don’t know the 1994 data, but as a hungarian student, i can assure all of you that today, this is very far from reality. I checked the homepages of the three most prominent hungarian universities, and my guesses are about 5%, 5% and 10%, respectively (and these are upper bounds). Math depts are not better, either.

  15. Anonymous says:

    That was supposed to be a hyperlink, right? The href attribute was omitted. -C

  16. Arun says:

    Physics Today, on the first International Conference on Women in Physics

    Quote: Communication among physicists, particularly in the US, was described as “combat physics”: At talks and in individual conversations, explains Kim Budil of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “you’d like people to engage in scientific discourse, but it often goes beyon that to become a fight for ego, to decide who is the smartest person in the room.”

    Lots of other interesting stuff there.

    -Arun

  17. Arun says:

    Lubos,

    I’ll ask again – how is the ratio of neurons between men and women’s brains relevant to the observed gender ratio in physics?

    -Arun

  18. Luboš Motl says:

    Those things are certainly relevant if we want to study the physiology of brains, and compare different types of brains.

    You must say “relevant for what” if you ask if something is relevant. You know that if it were totally irrelevant for anything, I would not have written it.

    You have probably misunderstood why I said that comment about the countries. I said it because the American science – which happens to be the scientific community with the large portion of women, as you say – is one of the successful ones, and it is conceivable that the competitive environment that does *not* try to respect any quotas is one of the reasons why it’s successful.

    In other words, other societies can artificially attract proportional shares of different groups of the population, but such an engineering is counterproductive for science as such.

  19. Arun says:

    So, Lubos, you agree that the following is mostly irrelevant?

    “The male and female brain work differently in details. The average male brane has 20 percent more neurons than the average female brain. The latter has more connections between the neurons than the male brain. When thinking about language, one can show that both female hemispheres, but only one male hemisphere, is active, and so forth.”

    Or do American brains have more neurons than brains of other folks? Does immigration to the US suddenly increase the number of neurons in the brain?

    -Arun

  20. Lubos Motl says:

    Well, the percentages of women in individual professions are different in various countries, and the variations are clearly a result of a different culture and different policies.

    But you may also want to notice that the results of scientific research in different countries are also different, and it is the same United States in which the results seem to be better.

    If you want to do some social engineering, and you have the politicial power to do it – there is nothing easier than to attract more people from some category to some profession. You just define some new advantages, and so forth. I am just not sure whether you really want to do such a thing.

    And don’t forget that quotas are unconstitutional in the USA.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting links, Arun. I found the following quite perceptive:

    “One Latina woman told Ong that in her all-female study group, women feel comfortable voicing their uncertainties and hunches with language like “I’m not really sure about this, what do you think?” However, they have found that those same phrases, in a mixed-gender group, more likely would be coded as “I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m really dumb,” and so women who persisted in physics have learned to speak with more assertion when working with male peers.”

    However, she is wrong below 😉

    “The woman told Ong she found an irony in this approach: Good scientists never claim to know something absolutely, but instead deal in degrees of uncertainty. “

  22. Arun says:

    And afterwards, Lubos, if he is so kind, can go over to MIT and quiz this physicist who wrote

    Recruiting Women (to physics) Takes More Effort

    Incidentally, these 1994 stats are interesting:

    Of 20 countries surveyed for another paper cited by the authors, the United States was tied with Korea for the lowest percentage of women in
    physics faculties, at three percent, they noted. In contrast, 47 percent of physics faculty members in Hungary and 30 percent in the former USSR are women. In addition, only nine percent of US physics doctorates went to women during the period studied, though that figure was 21 percent for France, 31 percent for Brazil and 60 percent for the Philippines. Within America, some universities have made more progress than others in increasing the numbers of women in physics; “the variations from one school to another are enormous,” Professor Dresselhaus observed.

    Perhaps Lubos can explain these variations in terms of the different numbers of neurons in the brains of women from different countries. Based on what he wrote earlier, the average female/male ratio of number of neurons in Filippinos should be much higher than that for Americans.

    In general, I am appalled that some people have such strong opinions without any regard for any data. On the other hand, this place is primarily for discussing string theory, so can anything better be expected?

  23. Arun says:

    Here is some actual research, and perhaps Lubos can interview the researcher for us, because she is in Harvard.


    Researcher Mia Ong: Physics ‘glass ceiling’ intact

  24. Fabio says:

    I always had the impression that the Russian physics culture was more aggressive and macho than the American one, at least in the good old days of the cold war. How did women fare in that system? The only example that comes to mind is Kallosh.

  25. Lubos Motl says:

    I apologize, but as an alien I feel the moral right to say that the American self-confidence is one of the features – certainly not the only feature though – that makes America special in the modern world.

    It’s perfectly fine if the students are quiet at all seminars and all classes. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s also nothing cool about it.

    Vocal students that go over the edge may be counterproductive for the teacher and other students, but on the other hand, a certain degree of activity is nearly always helpful.

    Most of European science is un-emotional, boring, lacking self-confidence and big ambitions. That’s just wrong, and God bless American science for its different atmosphere.

  26. DMS says:

    Interesting subject. I knew a couple of physics majors from Harvard and they echo what Peter said regarding faculty’s unfriendly attitude towards students. They did not feel they got what they paid for. Well, they are taxpayers (and some are even science advisors to senators and congressmen) and I am sure they are not as sympathetic to funding for theoretical physics, especially particle physics. It is best not to bite the hand that feeds. 🙂

    Regarding rewarding of hyper-aggressive behaviour, that is partly an American phenomenon; I did not notice that too much from people of (most 🙂 )other countries, but I may be wrong.

    I also notice a lot more Asian women who take up hard sciences (electrical engineering, CS etc) than N American. One factor seems to me are the “women’s magazines” , which are anything but feminist. It is paradoxical since women’s rights are more advanced in US than Asia. But many women in US are in fields like medicine and law; is the culture less aggressive in such fields? From my experience, particle theorists are the most aggressive bunch 😉

    Another factor is probably the teaching style, where often the teachers pay attention to the more “vocal/aggressive” students in the class, discouraging the quiter ones, be it male or female.

    Actually, Georgi (with several female Ph.Ds who are faculty members)and S.T. Yau (Karen Uhlenbeck mentions the important role he played in her career when she was being dismissed by other male colleagues) are notable exceptions.

    DMS

  27. Lubos Motl says:

    Many points are waiting here to be answered.

    Concerning the discrimination in USA vs. Central and Eastern Europe: Arun, I said it because I believe that the higher employment and salaries of women that we “achieved” in socialism – with women who don’t have too much time for their children – is not such a great thing after all. I have no idea whether the American or European reality – concerning the respect to women – is “better”.

    The ratio is female politicians is small almost everywhere, for example.

    I agree with you that the level of women’s salary is the reason, and the perception of various acts being viewed as jokes is an effect, but unlike you, I am not so sure whether it implies that someone is more right. Don’t you think that you should ask: Aren’t those critics in Europe right? Is not our American feminist system ridiculous?

    For the other participant: Well, if someone has other options, she (or he) can choose other options, does not she? It’s not clear to me what it means to “create an environment”. If it is a general feeling that an average woman is happier if she has a family etc., instead of physics career, then it is a general feeling, and her decision will be affected by her plans, her opinions, as well as general feelings of the people around. I don’t understand how someone wants to separate our culture from these decision.

    I may also expect the physicists to be slightly antisocial, arrogant etc. – but the reality is very different. The physicists are usually very nice people. In many contexts, I view it as a symptom of a problem, but that’s a different issue.

    Here we discuss the gender. I certainly don’t think that women have to be nicer than men, and if YOU believe the stereotype, then it is YOU who discriminates women.

    Sorry, but the answer of the women who did not to too well at the exams is most likely rubbish. One can always invent a cheap justification of this quality to explain why she or he failed at the exams. My interpretation is that the women over there just had a smaller score than the men. That’s the experimental reality, and it is just pseudoscience and biased ideology if someone tries to invent a virtual reality behind it.

    There exist exams in which women have a better score in average than the men, but if the previous group is more frequent, one should not immediately invent hypotheses that it is because of some “unfairness”.

    I don’t believe that women and men in science are talking two different languages. In 2000, I remember a polemic I had with a crazy postmodernist on a party in San Francisco. He was wearing an obnoxious T-shirt with a coffee cup, if I remember well, and the T-shirt was expressing his opinion that science is arrogant (I forgot the details), and something like that. He claimed that he would always be able to figure out whether a physics paper was written by a female or male authors.

    I am absolutely sure that I could give him a sample that he would guess much less than 50% correctly ;-), but unfortunately we lost e-mail contacts of each other.

    These people are just incredibly stupid and obnoxious. They believe that physics is a matter of cultural creation, something invented artificially, something into which the scientists reflect their gender, race, and whatever else – and our physics, as we know it, is a male white physics that would differ a lot from a female black physics, for example. Of course, they believe so because they don’t believe in any objective reality or science. Don’t you agree that these people are just pompous fools and morons? I get very upset already when I realize that many of these people are able to acquire academic positions. 😉

  28. Chris W. says:

    The issue (Lubos!) is not one of providing special support for women so they can succeed in a demanding and competitive environment, and to prevent them from becoming discouraged and dropping out. The issue is creating an environment that talented, competent, and mature people can respect, ie, that they feel is worthy of their abilities and strengths, knowing that they have other options.

    What Georgi is pointing out are fundamentally dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors, which are tolerated because, well, we expect physicists to be somewhat arrogant, antisocial, and clueless about the wider world (and sometimes just plain weird). More and more, that kind of excuse won’t fly, if only because most employers can’t afford it.

    I recall reading a report on this topic in Science a number of years ago. It discussed a particularly demanding exam that students pursuing a physics Ph.D at Harvard were expected to take in the course of their careers there. It noted that female students tended not to do as well on the exam. The author of the piece interviewed some women in the physics department at the time and asked them about this. They said, yes, that was true, and it was because this particular academic gauntlet “was just too nerdy for an intelligent woman to take seriously.”

    Any professional subculture can become insular and obtuse. (Take stock trading and investment banking, for example.) That is really what is at issue here, not simply accommodating excluded groups. Of course admitting that one is a complacent member of a spoiled, insular, and obtuse subculture, and then doing something about it, is not easy.


    It should also be noted that the place of fundamental research in our society is not so secure that its practitioners can afford to ignore issues like this. The demise of the SSC is an object lesson; there could be several more like it in our future, given the state of the federal budget.

  29. Arun says:

    Lubos:

    You wrote : “….some quantitative measures show that women may be more “equal” in the Czech Republic – for example, their employment rate is higher, and the ratio of female over male salaries is higher than in the USA. No one considers these things to be overly sensitive issues in the Czech Republic, and everyone is making jokes about America where the feminists can sue you if you look at her inappropriately…”.

    You’ve put your finger on something important but IMO, you’ve got cause and effect reversed. Where women’s employment rate is higher and salaries are more equal, discrimination seems like a distant joke, and no one is sensitive. Where discrimination is a reality, it hurts.

    -Arun

  30. Dick Thompson says:

    Well it looks like the commenters have achieved their dream. A nice little flame war. I am waiting for Godwin’s law to come into play

  31. Lubos Motl says:

    Dear DRL, if I imagine that you are an “intellectual”, it’s really not that hard to become a hyper-aggressive anti-intelectual. 😉

  32. D R Lunsford says:

    Mary,

    Nerds of all sexes and colors are hated most everywhere. No monopoly for woman nerds. The US is fundamentally anti-intellectual. I’ve learned to cover up at work and not make waves.

    PS I virtually offer to carry your books 🙂 Hang in there.

    -drl

  33. Lubos Motl says:

    That’s great that Mary wrote her statement – because it will force many of us to think about reality, and perhaps avoid a certain type of “help” that really does not help.

    I totally agree that the girls don’t need too much special treatment because of their hypothetical “weakness”.

    For example Melissa Franklin, my very interesting colleague, 😉 is a truly strong personality. She is one of the first female professors from some category – and under some circumstances, Peter Woit is – as a critic of string theory – a shy piece of soap compared to Melissa Franklin.

    Melissa has no problem to sit with 11 string theorists to a table at the Faculty Club, and explain them that she thinks that they are symbols of degeneration of the physics community, and it’s no fun to talk to them. In order to prove her point in detail, she picks a string theory postdoc and starts to ask him, at the end of the lunch, how is it possible that he did not say anything during the lunch! 🙂

    Well, really, many women don’t need any special legal support to get their point through.

    What I find important is that the very feeling that the females are being positively discriminated must be pretty devastating for those ambitious girls who simply want to be equally good or better than their male (and other female) colleagues. By the positive discimination, they’re being told: “If you do something fine or get a job or an award, it’s just because you have this artificial support for your not having a penis.” 😉

    That’s just an unpleasant state of affairs, especially because I know many girls in physics who simply do not need such an artificial support. Well, such affirmative action may help some other women to get the same jobs or awards as the talented ones, but I think it is just unfair, especially towards the talented females.

    There should be no discrimination, neither negative nor “positive”. We’ve lived in a regime based on the idea that the working class is being exploited by the “capitalists” and something radical must be done about it – and let me conclude that the idea that the females are being exploited by the men and radical actions must be taken – is a very similar idea that can lead to very similar results.

  34. Lubos Motl says:

    Yes, Arun, you are right that I don’t know too much about the situation in American families, and how much the parents support the daughters to study physics, and so on.

    But in the socialist bloc, we have just lived without this tension. Even though Americans often like to criticize some Czech traditions – e.g. when boys beat the girls during the Easter holidays 🙂 – some quantitative measures show that women may be more “equal” in the Czech Republic – for example, their employment rate is higher, and the ratio of female over male salaries is higher than in the USA.

    No one considers these things to be overly sensitive issues in the Czech Republic, and everyone is making jokes about America where the feminists can sue you if you look at her inappropriately. 😉 The same situation like in Czechia is in Taiwan, for example, I was told by Melissa Liu, a female mathematician who has worked with Shing Tung Yau. Nevertheless everyone knows that the “natural” outcome will be that most girls will NOT choose specialized physics and engineering careers.

    On the contrary, they will choose teaching (at high schools), and this may be a stereotype, but it may also be correlated with maternal instincts.

    Also, if some parents just believe that a job is wrong for their son or daughter, they have the right to promote their opinion within the mantinels given by the law – they’re the parents! And the children must often become rebels. At the end, I am pretty sure that every parent is happy if her or his daughter becomes a skillful engineer or physicist.

    To summarize: I don’t think that there is much difference between the characteristics of men and women in different Western countries – which again counts the Czech Republic, too. And we – from the Central Europe – probably have a more balanced point of view.

  35. Mary Messall says:

    As a female graduate student, I resent the crap I hear about women just thinking differently from men. I also resent the idea that women are just so much weaker and more sensetive that they can’t take the competitive environment, and any suggestion that women should face, or do face, less strict standards of admission or success. And finally, I resent the notion that women are just so unable to stand up to men that they have let themselves be oppressed for centuries, and that the ghost of this oppression keeps them out of physics even now.

    So what’s my theory? Simple. It costs women more to be perceived as nerds than men, and physics is the nerdiest science. Popularity and attractiveness are status, for a woman. You want the rewards of status — a mate, the respect of your peers (especially other women, mothers and aunts and grandmothers and girlfriends), stimulating friends and politeness from strangers, self-esteem and etc — you’d better not be a bespectacled obsessed loner. Guys can get away with it, because status for guys comes from public success, money and power. Those things are available in academia.

    The solution? I figure if we could just get girls to read more science fiction, the field would seem more glamorous. That’s how I got sucked in, after all.

  36. D R Lunsford says:

    Yes, Peter I insist that these abuses against Lubos cease at once, at once I say, at once! It’s plainly discrimination against expatriate short-fused addled tongue-tied hyperaggressive anintuitive Harvard physics professors. Shame on you.

  37. Arun says:

    Lubos,

    You are a scientist. Why then is it an automatic assumption that the social situation in the US, the high-school teachers’ attitudes to girls good in math and physics, parental attitudes, and so on are the same in the US as in the Czech Republic? I think the natural assumption has to be that it is different until proven similar.

    (IMO, we lack a science of cultural differences because it is so difficult not to make these automatic assumptions.)

    -Arun

  38. sol says:

    As most of you know I like to admonish multi dimensional perspectives :), so of course Mona Lisa’s smile, as a movie should have been considered in context, as well:)

    Traditions are keenly recognized over the last century, and I’d like to think, that mothering propective students, would have been more then saying okay, because of the rote system by which you eager students have memorized, I am going to break up this line of thinking, by presenting a whole new perspective(remembering the movie now:)?

    The method of teaching changed ole tradition, and incorporated new facets of thinking. Gained a appreciation over artistic views, and mothers?

    So we should find independance and brilliance based on the content and material of dissertation, rather then, what neurons fire more then likely(move your arm enough and you create the pathways), to what should fire outside of rote(creative potentials).

    Of course we do not forget the foundation. Thanks Peter:)

    Oh, I am male.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Please Peter, stop the cruel digs at Lubos, lest you drive away this delicate flower for good.

  40. Lubos Motl says:

    It’s great that I can confirm Peter’s last sentence 😉 by the following comment:

    The influence of feminism (and related ideas about the males exploiting the females, and similar rubbish) at the U.S. academic institutions is highly annoying and discouraging for an freedom-loving person. Of course, it is partly a matter of culture and traditions.

    Let me tell you that my diploma thesis advisor in Prague – whom I consider my friend, and we wrote a textbook together – married my classmate. She simply fell in love with him during the first lecture, and finally it worked out.

    I would personally find it highly disturbing if someone had the courage to publicly question their relationship just because it was a teacher and his student. Such a questioning simply violates what I consider to be a respect to basic human freedoms, and a respect to important relationships between the people – it’s a disrespect to love.

    Let me also say that today it is nonsense that the girls are discriminated virtually anywhere in physics. Average girls simply do not like physics as much as boys do, even if they are supported. This is an observable fact, regardless of its explanation. Genders have played slightly different roles in the society for centuries and millenia – but even if they did not, there are just so many biological differences that a different “typical” focus of the two genders just could not be surprising.

    The male and female brain work differently in details. The average male brane has 20 percent more neurons than the average female brain. The latter has more connections between the neurons than the male brain. When thinking about language, one can show that both female hemispheres, but only one male hemisphere, is active, and so forth.

    It’s also very wrong and silly to create a false stereotype in which the teachers are trying to pick their students, and not the other way around. I know many more examples of the second category.

    By the way, the physicists should be much more aggressive than they are today. There are some shining exception of physicists who know what they defend – and some of them are women. 😉

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