When a team of scientists released the first-ever image of a black hole on April 10th, the history-making picture spread across the internet like wildfire. It also didn’t take long for news to break that a 29-year-old scientist named Katie Bouman had played a key role in developing the image. And—unfortunately—this also means sexist trolls soon came out in full force.
To recap, Bouman led the development of an algorithm that helped compile the final image. She started work on the project three years ago as a graduate student, and she was one of 200 scientists working on the team that released the picture of the black hole. Her role was crucial to the project, but she made sure to note that it was a team effort, telling CNN: “No one of us could’ve done it alone.”
However, some online are arguing that Bouman got credit that she didn’t deserve, claiming on Reddit that a white male Harvard graduate student named Andrew Chael “wrote 850,000 out of the 900,000 lines of code in the historic black-hole algorithm.” Chael has since taken to Twitter on April 12th to clear up these misconceptions and to defend Bouman. In a thread, he wrote that he was the primary developer of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) imaging library, a fact that some are using “to launch awful and sexist attacks” on his colleague.
Chael clarified that the black hole image used three different imaging libraries, stressing that Bouman’s contributions were incredibly important and that the whole project was a team effort.
He went on to explain that, while Bouman’s attackers have credited him with writing “850,000 lines of code,” much of that was in model files—not the final product. He noted that the final software consisted of about 68,000 lines of code and wrote, “I don’t care how many of those I personally authored.”
We applaud Chael for standing up for his colleague, and we hope the trolls get the message loud and clear.
(1/7) So apparently some (I hope very few) people online are using the fact that I am the primary developer of the eht-imaging software library (https://t.co/n7djw1r9hY) to launch awful and sexist attacks on my colleague and friend Katie Bouman. Stop.— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019
(2/7) Our papers used three independent imaging software libraries (including one developed by my friend @sparse_k). While I wrote much of the code for one of these pipelines, Katie was a huge contributor to the software; it would have never worked without her contributions and— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019
(3/7) the work of many others who wrote code, debugged, and figured out how to use the code on challenging EHT data. With a few others, Katie also developed the imaging framework that rigorously tested all three codes and shaped the entire paper (https://t.co/hgJrv3gOE5);— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019
(4/7) as a result, this is probably the most vetted image in the history of radio interferometry. I'm thrilled Katie is getting recognition for her work and that she's inspiring people as an example of women's leadership in STEM. I'm also thrilled she's pointing— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019
(5/7) out that this was a team effort including contributions from many junior scientists, including many women junior scientists (https://t.co/Gte2sTNLXo). Together, we all make each other's work better; the number of commits doesn't tell the full story of who was indispensable.— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019
(6/7) So while I appreciate the congratulations on a result that I worked hard on for years, if you are congratulating me because you have a sexist vendetta against Katie, please go away and reconsider your priorities in life. Otherwise, stick around -- I hope to start tweeting— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019
(7/7) more about black holes and other subjects I am passionate about -- including space, being a gay astronomer, Ursula K. Le Guin, architecture, and musicals. Thanks for following me, and let me know if you have any questions about the EHT! 😀📡🕳️ pic.twitter.com/mCWbNhfySl— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019
(Also I did not write "850,000 lines of code" -- many of those "lines" tracked by github are in model files. There are about 68,000 lines in the current software, and I don't care how many of those I personally authored)— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019