Monday, July 16, 2007
Little green men (they really are)
One of the faddish issues in physics is gender inequality. Females are strongly underrepresented. Of course those in power try to exclude people different from themselves. This is glaring in physics in which anyone who is not a crackpot like the leaders is pushed out. But gender inequality has become a faddish issue so there is great concern about it. One person trying to deal with it is Jocelyn Bell Burnell. She is well known for her work as a graduate student, which won her advisor a Nobel Prize. He was given the award for his brilliance in finding a student who discovered pulsars. These are now known to be rapidly rotating neutron stars but the signals were then thought to be communications from little green men (gender inequality goes back a long way; little green women were never considered). Of course she was never given an award. But why should she? She never found a student who made a major discovery. It turns out however that little green men were involved. They were on the Nobel Prize committee. What they were communicating can only be guess at.