Women in Physics

  • Imagine you are sipping tea or coffee while discussing various issues with a broad and diverse network of students, colleagues, and friends brought together by the common bond of physics, graduate school, and the physics GRE.

astrofan
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Wed Mar 11, 2009 12:51 pm

I actually think that on average men in physics suffer from ugly-loser-ism more than the women... I think the proportion of male physics students who needed a little excercise and a couple of shirts that didnt have airbrushed pictures of a wolf howling at a winter moon in front of some pine trees (you know who you are--where do you guys get those things?) was apalling.
He wasn't making an observation; he was making an observation and a comment about those people. Saying a lot of male physicists have a certain type of fasion, that is an observation. Throwing in terms such as "losers" and "apalling" when refering to those people is attacking. He goes on to say its okay to engage in gaming as long as you don't "dress the part the rest of the time".

He is certaintly entitled to his opinon, but don't try and tell me he was being objective. It's funny because I don't actually have any of these objectionable shirts, as my wardrobe consists mainly of sports shirts.

astrofan
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:15 pm

Just to add to my point, I remember a conversation with a friend of mine who was a humanities major. We were talking about the girls in physics/engineering and he remarked that there were some hot ones. He went on to say that if they learned to use make up and wore more apealing clothing it would go a long way.

Now, maybe this statement was untrue at your paticular school. I did not agree with his generalization, but consider for a moment that it was true at my school.

I suppose he was also making an observation. :wink:

kaosgrace
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by kaosgrace » Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:34 pm

Of course (though it may not have occured to you gentlemen) there might be a reason why we female physics majors choose not to wear makeup and "appealing" clothing, and it might have nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not we know how. Perhaps nobody takes us seriously when we look nice; perhaps we're immediately dumped into the "dumb and hot" side of the dichotomy you've set up in your minds, and everyone tries to sleep with us instead of talking to us about physics. Maybe we start getting invited out for dinner and a movie instead of being invited over for game night. For girls who enjoy being "one of the guys" - that being about the only way we can have a circle of platonic friends who share our interests - being placed in the "datable" category instead of the "friendable" category is a social disaster.

You might be surprised what we look like when we go out of town for vacation.

mhazelm
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by mhazelm » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:52 pm

grae313 wrote: Astrofan, it looks like you're the only one getting your panties in a wad ...
LOL! That is the funniest phrase I've heard all week! I think my coffee almost came out through my nose there...
kaosgrace wrote:Of course (though it may not have occured to you gentlemen) there might be a reason why we female physics majors choose not to wear makeup and "appealing" clothing, and it might have nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not we know how. Perhaps nobody takes us seriously when we look nice; perhaps we're immediately dumped into the "dumb and hot" side of the dichotomy you've set up in your minds, and everyone tries to sleep with us instead of talking to us about physics. Maybe we start getting invited out for dinner and a movie instead of being invited over for game night. For girls who enjoy being "one of the guys" - that being about the only way we can have a circle of platonic friends who share our interests - being placed in the "datable" category instead of the "friendable" category is a social disaster.

You might be surprised what we look like when we go out of town for vacation.
This is very true. In my own experience, I'm afraid to dress too nicely at school for fear that people will not take me seriously as a scientist. I want to be seen as a physicist, then a woman, and not the other way around. Otherwise you'll all just be staring at my chest and it won't matter what nice physics I'm doing...

but when I'm off on break, it's a totally different story. Most of the time when I'm out meeting new people, they're quite surprised I'm a physics/math student because I look pretty "normal" (whatever that means, anyway). And in this case I do try to look nice because as people have already said, you are treated differently if you look nice than if you look awful (Do a social experiment. Go to the same store two different days (first looking awful and then good), when the same employees are working. Try to get customer service. Notice the difference in the way you are treated by the same people). PS: if you are really into wolves howling, you can always get a tattoo instead. It'll last longer and probably smell better (well, maybe...)

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dlenmn
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by dlenmn » Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:13 pm

mhazelm wrote:I'm afraid to dress too nicely at school for fear that people will not take me seriously as a scientist.
I don't take anyone seriously as a scientist unless the person has facial hair, so you're simply SOL...
Last edited by dlenmn on Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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grae313
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by grae313 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:15 pm

astrofan wrote:Just to add to my point, I remember a conversation with a friend of mine who was a humanities major. We were talking about the girls in physics/engineering and he remarked that there were some hot ones. He went on to say that if they learned to use make up and wore more apealing clothing it would go a long way.

Now, maybe this statement was untrue at your paticular school. I did not agree with his generalization, but consider for a moment that it was true at my school.

I suppose he was also making an observation. :wink:
OK, you're right, it was more than an observation when he called it "appalling" and called them "losers." I just see what he's getting at, so go ahead and give me a big "*** YOU" as well :D

And there's a difference between basic self-maintenance and dolling yourself up to catch a date. No matter how much you want to believe nobody in physics cares about appearances, it's not true. We may care about it a hell of a lot less than other people, and we may give slack to a smelly person who dresses like a 5th-grader if they are a brilliant physicist, but all else being equal, people respond better to those that take a little time to do simple things like shower every day, and wear clean, decent-looking clothes (even if it is just a clean t-shirt and jeans). Phew, long sentence, too many commas.

Fixing yourself up too much gives the impression of narcissism, but I believe taking care of the basics shows that you have some self-respect and self-pride.

astrofan
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:19 pm

grae313 wrote: We may care about it a hell of a lot less than other people, and we may give slack to a smelly person who dresses like a 5th-grader if they are a brilliant physicist, but all else being equal, people respond better to those that take a little time to do simple things like shower every day, and wear clean, decent-looking clothes (even if it is just a clean t-shirt and jeans). Phew, long sentence, too many commas.

Fixing yourself up too much gives the impression of narcissism, but I believe taking care of the basics shows that you have some self-respect and self-pride.
First of all, I was not arguing about hygene at all. Clearly, my arguement was just on the fasion side.

What you said is fine, although I might take exception based on what your definition of "decent-looking clothes" is. As I said, I don't care, but if even one person does than you should dress better. Notice how no insults were hurled in your explanation.

Now, back to my MMO. 8)

slugger
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by slugger » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:28 pm

holy hell...i never meant to insult you astrofan, and i really dont get the big deal. this wasnt a thread about making fun of clothes, i was trying to add my thoughts to a previous discussion on the ugly-&-smart / pretty-&-dumb percieved dichotemy in women--apparently i wound up stepping in dog s***. im not here to bash DnD kids or wolf shirt afficionados, if you are either 1000 pardons. please lets be cool guys and talk about women in physics--like Danica McKellar...yeah published in J. Phys. A!

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grae313
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by grae313 » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:32 am

slugger wrote: im not here to bash DnD kids or wolf shirt afficionados
I am! lol

astrofan
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:57 pm

grae313 wrote:
slugger wrote: im not here to bash DnD kids or wolf shirt afficionados
I am! lol

I am sorry we all can't be pool sharks.

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grae313
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by grae313 » Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:27 pm

astrofan wrote:I am sorry we all can't be pool sharks.
It's not the people that play DnD or WoW that annoy me, its the people that can find nothing better by which to define themselves. They talk, dress, and act the part of "geek" constantly as if adopting the persona gives them a reprieve from their inadequacies.

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coreycwgriffin
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by coreycwgriffin » Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:05 pm

dlenmn wrote:
mhazelm wrote:I'm afraid to dress too nicely at school for fear that people will not take me seriously as a scientist.
I don't take anyone seriously as a scientist unless the person has facial hair, so you're simply SOL...
Hey, Bill Phillips actually came to my middle-of-nowhere college my freshman year and gave a presentation. Pretty cool guy.
grae313 wrote:
astrofan wrote:I am sorry we all can't be pool sharks.
It's not the people that play DnD or WoW that annoy me, its the people that can find nothing better by which to define themselves. They talk, dress, and act the part of "geek" constantly as if adopting the persona gives them a reprieve from their inadequacies.
I agree with this. Hard.

Also, what's so bad about wolf shirts? I mean, just read the comments here.






P.S. -- I do not, in fact, own a wolf shirt.

astrofan
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:41 pm

grae313 wrote:
They talk, dress, and act the part of "geek" constantly as if adopting the persona gives them a reprieve from their inadequacies.
I don't understand the "inadequacies". There are several personas I have seen at college, which persona should gamers take? How about the "I love college" frat boys who are constantly looking to hook up and party. Or the overly political kids that are constantly always annoying you about changing the world. Are these personas adequate? How come only gamers get attacked?

I just don't understand why, after a long day of classes, people laugh at the guy that wants to go home and game. On the other hand, the guy that says I want to go kill some brain cells and try my very best to *** some random girl, its met with great acceptance. This situation actually happened when a bunch of us were talking to our TA (who, going with the theme of this thread, was a very hot female physics grad student). I was going to mention how mean this was, but realized no one (including the guys I know have no problem sitting down to play a few hours of Halo) would agree. Ah, the effects of a pretty woman; nothing makes me more ashamed about my gender.

Anyway, back to the socially acceptable practice of watching basketball. Common Spurs, we need a little help.

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twistor
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by twistor » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:57 am

Your social inadequacy is directly proportional to the number of posts in this thread, and inversely proportional to the total number of posts to this site.

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quizivex
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by quizivex » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:06 am

It's a fascinating question whether there's a (negative) correlation between intelligence and appearence (or physical strength, social skills or other things). We're all familiar with the (unflattering) stereotypes of physics students/profs, and I'd agree many the physics profs I met in undergrad were easily stranger and less sociable and attractive than most senior males I had met earlier in life. But then again, profs in general, in other fields, are strange too.

As for the girls in physics programs, it's hard for any of us to judge soundly since we're dealing with such a small sample, probably 1-5 girls at one school in one year... There were a few girls in my undergrad physics classes and a they were actually decent to hot. However, they were terrible at physics. They only passed the upper level classes since most profs gave everyone at least a C, and if they were doing too bad they'd drop or retake the class and slip by. They'd have a C average in physics but graduate with a physics degree with close to a 3.0 or above GPA by doing ok in core classes. Some were actually biophysics majors who did well in the biomemorizing *** but again, bombed the physics.

So I don't think my experience can answer this question. Whether girls who are actually competent in physics are hot or not, I don't know.

I believe that natural intelligence has no correlation with appearence. The students in the gifted class in my high school looked just like everyone else and some were actually very lousy students. Two of the girls in the class were ridiculously hot, one of which I knew well and hopefully will see her at our upcoming 5-year reunion :wink: .

The key to success, in high school (and in college, unless you do something intellectual like physics/math/entineering), is more about effort than natural intelligence. What we're using when we decide whether someone's smart or not is usually how well they do at school or on tests, which again is not always about natural intelligence. Intelligence is hard to detect even in everyday life since how someone describes the weather or his dog isn't going to reveal much. In extreme cases, you can pick out someone who's truly a ditz. I gave a girl one of those galileo thermometers for X-mas, and the next week she told me she thinks it isn't working right... "The weather channel says it's below freezing but this thing says it's 70 degrees." I couldn't believe what I had heard. I was about to cry, and asked her to repeat herself, hoping I had heard her wrong. But indeed, she actually thought the table-top indoor thermometer was supposed to measure the temperature outside.

I noticed in HS the "smarter" girls (the ones who did well in classes) were less attractive. I think we could come up with some rather interesting theories about how this correlation could develop. Afterall, hot girls get much more attention from guys and are likely to be distracted more by relationship/dating/boy-girl drama than the ugly girls who are left alone and can focus more on schoolwork. Also, people who focus more on appearance or athletics and such may naturally focus less on work and vice versa.

A classic example was a girl who was in my 9th grade trig class. She was nerdy, quiet, boring and not so attractive. She'd often score the highest in her classes on tests and finished middle school with all As. By the end of high school, though, she had become very outgoing, risque and developed into a stunning curvy knockout, but was only a mediocre student. She ended up going to a college mostly for partying, and posted countless drunk and half naked facebook albums during her time there. I wasn't close enough to her to know exactly how the transformation occurred, but in summary, I think this case supports the idea that our non-intellectual attributes influence our lifestyles in such a way that may support or detract from our academic performance, and that the natural intelligence we're born with is not necessarily connected to these attributes.

Blah, another too-long post :(
twistor wrote:Your social inadequacy is directly proportional to the number of posts in this thread, and inversely proportional to the total number of posts to this site.
No, it's inversely proportional to your # of words per post! Geez, it seemed like just yesterday twistor reached 1000. He's blazed past 1100 and 1111 before I could even blink. Though I think I'm by far the worst at overusing this forum, lol. So many of twistor's and RG's were one-liners, but my posts usually require scrolling down.
:mrgreen:
mhazelm wrote:I'm afraid to dress too nicely at school for fear that people will not take me seriously as a scientist. I want to be seen as a physicist, then a woman, and not the other way around. Otherwise you'll all just be staring at my chest and it won't matter what nice physics I'm doing...
Ah, sorry you ladies have to put up with that. It's just a sad fact of life things work that way. I'm a gentelmanly exception to that, though *pats self on back*. I'd never want a girl to see me looking at her chest (so I wait to stare until she's looking the other way). :lol:

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twistor
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by twistor » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:27 am

No, it's inversely proportional to your # of words per post! Geez, it seemed like just yesterday twistor reached 1000. He's blazed past 1100 and 1111 before I could even blink. Though I think I'm by far the worst at overusing this forum, lol. So many of twistor's and RG's were one-liners, but my posts usually require scrolling down.
:mrgreen:
I'm sure that if you divided your posts up into one-liners you'd be way past 1111 by now.
Ah, sorry you ladies have to put up with that. It's just a sad fact of life things work that way. I'm a gentelmanly exception to that, though *pats self on back*. I'd never want a girl to see me looking at her chest (so I wait to stare until she's looking the other way).
I noticed that scientists tend to be less sexual (at least openly) than the rest of the population. When I pass attractive ladies in the hallway, I turn around as they pass in order to check them out. I have rarely observed other male physicists doing this, although I see it happening quite a bit with random people on the street.

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twistor
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by twistor » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:31 am

I gave a girl one of those galileo thermometers for X-mas
Okay, *** dating lesson 10-***-1.

DO NOT *** GIVE A GIRL A THERMOMETER FOR CHRISTMAS! ARE YOU HIGH? DO YOU NOT REALIZE THAT GIRLS, EVEN GIRLS THAT ARE PROFESSIONAL SCIENTISTS, DO NOT APPRECIATE INSTRUMENTS OF MEASUREMENT AS CHRISTMAS GIFTS?

The only exception to this is if it's Valentine's day and the card reads something like, "Here's something you can use to measure how warm you make me feel."

astrofan
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:34 am

twistor wrote: I noticed that scientists tend to be less sexual (at least openly) than the rest of the population. When I pass attractive ladies in the hallway, I turn around as they pass in order to check them out. I have rarely observed other male physicists doing this, although I see it happening quite a bit with random people on the street.
As usual I can't tell if you are being serious or not (either way the post was entertaining). I think there is a time and place for that, and work is not one of them. If more men realized this, the workplace would be better for women.

When I go to a bar or club, I do check girls out, though there are some that take offense there as well. :lol:

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twistor
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by twistor » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:35 am

astrofan wrote:
twistor wrote: I noticed that scientists tend to be less sexual (at least openly) than the rest of the population. When I pass attractive ladies in the hallway, I turn around as they pass in order to check them out. I have rarely observed other male physicists doing this, although I see it happening quite a bit with random people on the street.
As usual I can't tell if you are being serious or not (either way the post was entertaining). I think there is a time and place for that, and work is not one of them. If more men realized this, the workplace would be better for women.

When I go to a bar or club, I do check girls out, though there are some that take offense there as well. :lol:
Look, but don't touch.

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quizivex
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by quizivex » Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:14 am

twistor wrote:DO NOT *** GIVE A GIRL A THERMOMETER FOR CHRISTMAS! ARE YOU HIGH? DO YOU NOT REALIZE THAT GIRLS, EVEN GIRLS THAT ARE PROFESSIONAL SCIENTISTS, DO NOT APPRECIATE INSTRUMENTS OF MEASUREMENT AS CHRISTMAS GIFTS?

The only exception to this is if it's Valentine's day and the card reads something like, "Here's something you can use to measure how warm you make me feel."
Nah those thermometers are an ideal gift. Girls love glass decorations, and they think it's cool to see the things float up and down. They're only $10, and they're a classy looking item that most people haven't seen before. Yes it's a thermometer, but it's not a nerdy gift. I wouldn't be caught dead giving a calculator or model rocket as a gift, but I've been giving away those thermometers for years to girls and guys and they've really liked them.
twistor wrote:I noticed that scientists tend to be less sexual (at least openly) than the rest of the population. When I pass attractive ladies in the hallway, I turn around as they pass in order to check them out. I have rarely observed other male physicists doing this, although I see it happening quite a bit with random people on the street.
Yeah I always turn around to check out the backside, and so do most guys (the rest are gay). I haven't observed physicists doing it, but that's probably more because they're so old on average and older men rarely do the turn-around (for whatever reason... arthritis, impotence, married, not wanting to be seen doing it etc...)
astrofan wrote:I think there is a time and place for that, and work is not one of them. If more men realized this, the workplace would be better for women.
Actually, the women can really take advantage of this if they choose... :lol:

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twistor
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by twistor » Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:19 am

I've been giving away those thermometers for years to girls and guys and they've really liked them.
People are going to say that pretty much no matter what you give them. You are being lied to.

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coreycwgriffin
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by coreycwgriffin » Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:02 am

I base my entire life on twistor's advice.

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Andromeda
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by Andromeda » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:25 pm

Wow, that's what happens when I start a thread and leave it be. I confess it was a great read tho so I won't complain. :D

A few things-

1) Add me to the "professors staring at my chest" group. Heck, by the time I graduated I had two profs who had obvious crushes and had to file sexual harassment stuff against one of them, which I really don't recommend. :evil:

2) Regarding appearance, I find it to be one of the great things in my life that no one bothered to tell me I was cute until I went off to college and realized it on my own. (I went to an all-girls school and was busy with my telescope at night, so it's not impossible.) Girls (and guys!) who are all too aware of their attractiveness and how to use it will often be mediocre just because they don't have to use their other skills. Simple as that.

3) I've been traveling for two months now, getting into more trouble with my little red cocktail dress than I care to divulge, and you will never believe how many guys will never say another word to you once they learn you finished in physics. I mean c'mon, you can at least have the decency to say one of those stupid "oh, you must be really smart!" comments!

(And as a final note, does anyone have a good comeback for that "oh you must be really smart!" line in bars? Always bugs me.)

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grae313
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by grae313 » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:26 pm

Andromeda wrote:(And as a final note, does anyone have a good comeback for that "oh you must be really smart!" line in bars? Always bugs me.)
"Yeah"

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twistor
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by twistor » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:02 pm

coreycwgriffin wrote:I base my entire life on twistor's advice.

A wise decision.

astrofan
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:04 pm

Andromeda wrote:Wow, that's what happens when I start a thread and leave it be. I confess it was a great read tho so I won't complain. :D

A few things-

1) Add me to the "professors staring at my chest" group. Heck, by the time I graduated I had two profs who had obvious crushes and had to file sexual harassment stuff against one of them, which I really don't recommend. :evil:

2) Regarding appearance, I find it to be one of the great things in my life that no one bothered to tell me I was cute until I went off to college and realized it on my own. (I went to an all-girls school and was busy with my telescope at night, so it's not impossible.) Girls (and guys!) who are all too aware of their attractiveness and how to use it will often be mediocre just because they don't have to use their other skills. Simple as that.

3) I've been traveling for two months now, getting into more trouble with my little red cocktail dress than I care to divulge, and you will never believe how many guys will never say another word to you once they learn you finished in physics. I mean c'mon, you can at least have the decency to say one of those stupid "oh, you must be really smart!" comments!

(And as a final note, does anyone have a good comeback for that "oh you must be really smart!" line in bars? Always bugs me.)
Count me as one of your stalkers, as I have been studying you for over two years now. :wink:

As to 1, it seems that lots of males in astronomy are worried about this. Harvard released an internal study, and a lot of male scientists at Harvard-Smithsonian were hesitant to show interest in helping female grad students because they feared that their attention would be misconstrued. I sort of understand this; if your tenured, you don't really have to worry about it because it is very hard to lose your tenure. However, allegations of sexual harassment could be a big problem if you are not tenured (and most people working at the CFA are not). There are also a good number of attractive women at Harvard, which I guess makes it harder for older men.

As to 3, normal guys will do that because they assume you are not easy. Normal women have the same reaction; once I clearly explain to them the difference between astrophysics and astrology, they lose interest. As I stated earlier, studying physics is not cool. I have given up on finding someone interesting at a bar, they seem to only be good for the random hook up. Unfortunately, I have found that attractive women in physics want to be with non-physicists (which has been reiterated here). I guess the same thing can be said about the attractive men in physics.

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twistor
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by twistor » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:07 pm

Andromeda wrote: (And as a final note, does anyone have a good comeback for that "oh you must be really smart!" line in bars? Always bugs me.)

Here's what you say:

"You know what they say about smart chicks? .... (subtle smile)"

Let them make their own inferences.

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twistor
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Re: Women in Physics

Post by twistor » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:18 pm

astrofan wrote: As to 3, normal guys will do that because they assume you are not easy. Normal women have the same reaction; once I clearly explain to them the difference between astrophysics and astrology, they lose interest. As I stated earlier, studying physics is not cool. I have given up on finding someone interesting at a bar, they seem to only be good for the random hook up. Unfortunately, I have found that attractive women in physics want to be with non-physicists (which has been reiterated here). I guess the same thing can be said about the attractive men in physics.
Here's what I've learned. Never talk about your work to non-scientists. Never bring up your work to someone you don't know unless they ask you about it. It's hard to convince people that work in your field that your work is interesting enough for them to take the time to understand, so just imagine how hard it is to convince the laymen. One or two word simple answers should convey what you do if you are asked. For instance, don't say, "I'm an astrophysicist studying the genesis of stars and how it plays a part in nucleosynthesis." Rather, say something like,"I look at stars and try to figure out based on what I see where atoms come from." And especially don't try to teach people anything, like the difference between astrology and astronomy. Nothing puts others off more than a lecture they didn't ask for. If asked about the difference between astrology and astronomy say something simple like, "In astronomy we study the stars and the universe and how everything works together, but we don't believe that the stars have any affect on our lives. In astrology they do believe that." And then just leave it at that.

Immediate turn-offs: technical jargon, verbosity, and too much detail. You're not in an intelligence contest with the people you meet on the street.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:07 pm

twistor wrote: Here's what I've learned. Never talk about your work to non-scientists. Never bring up your work to someone you don't know unless they ask you about it. It's hard to convince people that work in your field that your work is interesting enough for them to take the time to understand, so just imagine how hard it is to convince the laymen. One or two word simple answers should convey what you do if you are asked. For instance, don't say, "I'm an astrophysicist studying the genesis of stars and how it plays a part in nucleosynthesis." Rather, say something like,"I look at stars and try to figure out based on what I see where atoms come from." And especially don't try to teach people anything, like the difference between astrology and astronomy. Nothing puts others off more than a lecture they didn't ask for. If asked about the difference between astrology and astronomy say something simple like, "In astronomy we study the stars and the universe and how everything works together, but we don't believe that the stars have any affect on our lives. In astrology they do believe that." And then just leave it at that.

Immediate turn-offs: technical jargon, verbosity, and too much detail. You're not in an intelligence contest with the people you meet on the street.
I never bring up what I do, but when asked my major or what I do, I say astrophysics or astronomy. Some people reply with something about astrology, and then I correct them. And I don't live in some rural area; this is Boston.

I guess there would be less confusion if I said I study stars instead of the real title.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by metric » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:10 pm

Andromeda wrote: 1) Add me to the "professors staring at my chest" group. Heck, by the time I graduated I had two profs who had obvious crushes and had to file sexual harassment stuff against one of them, which I really don't recommend. :evil:
Let me say something here, I TA'd a freshman course on classmech last year. There was a girl that was really gifted in that area, and that would show up in class with the most crazy cleavages. I was very afraid of staring at her (or hers :) ) just because my eyes could move a bit more than expected and I would feel really embarrassed, and probably her as well.
It was a very very awkward situation, I kept avoiding her or I would just answer questions to the whole class, or stare at mid-distance :) , when she would ask me something. What should I have done? It was like looking at an eclipse, there's a show out there but you don't really want to look straight at it.
kaosgrace wrote: Of course (though it may not have occured to you gentlemen) there might be a reason why we female physics majors choose not to wear makeup and "appealing" clothing, and it might have nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not we know how.
Tell me about it, I spend 3 hours every day trying to hide my built-up body, my luxurious hair and my general good looks behind the mask of a skinny, going-bald dude that hasn't been hit by a direct solar photon in the last 2 months to be taken seriously. Life is hard for males too...

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by mhazelm » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:26 pm

metric wrote: Let me say something here, I TA'd a freshman course on classmech last year. There was a girl that was really gifted in that area, and that would show up in class with the most crazy cleavages. I was very afraid of staring at her (or hers :) ) just because my eyes could move a bit more than expected and I would feel really embarrassed, and probably her as well.
It was a very very awkward situation, I kept avoiding her or I would just answer questions to the whole class, or stare at mid-distance :) , when she would ask me something. What should I have done? It was like looking at an eclipse, there's a show out there but you don't really want to look straight at it.
Well, just keep in mind that there's a difference between STARING at them and just glancing. At least in my case, I anticipate occasional glances; that's human nature, so if I wear a low-cut shirt then males (not just physicists, either) will probably glance. But then there's staring. You can train yourself not to stare. And staring is what makes me the most uncomfortable...

When you have such a student, just focus on eye contact, and don't let your eyes wander down. It's really that simple.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by metric » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:04 pm

Sorry, I'm a non native english speaker (as you can tell). I didn't mean staring but looking or glancing. I never stared and I was afraid even to glance. As you can probably deduct, this was the first time teaching a class, so this situation was new and I really didn't know how to handle it. After remembering some horrible experiences in college, where a group of students of one class (including me) had to sign a petition to get a professor fired because of mistreatments of a female classmate, I wanted to be cautious (too much maybe.)
mhazelm wrote: When you have such a student, just focus on eye contact, and don't let your eyes wander down. It's really that simple.
Nice tip, although it sounds almost too easy. How would you feel if one gifted, ex porno actor, male professor would show up to lecture wearing spandex? :) I don't think that eye contact would make the situation less awkward, and that you would be really concious of where your eyes are all the time.
Last edited by metric on Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by mhazelm » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:09 pm

metric wrote:
mhazelm wrote: When you have such a student, just focus on eye contact, and don't let your eyes wander down. It's really that simple.
Nice tip, although it sounds almost too easy. How would you feel if one gifted, ex porno actor, male professor would show up to lecture wearing spandex? I don't think that eye contact would make the situation less awkward.
I think that this scenario is one reason that it's important to be a bit more professional at school (which has been mentioned somewhere on this thread). Yes, we're students, and that allows us to be more informal, but we're still working on our careers. Showing a lot of cleavage or wearing spandex isn't really the ideal way to professionally present ourselves. But, what can we do...

Personally I think all of us should establish a uniform: that T-shirt with Maxwell's equations that says "And there was light". You guys know which one I mean -- http://www.scienceteecher.com/Blackholeback_large.jpg.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by coreycwgriffin » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:23 pm

metric wrote: Let me say something here, I TA'd a freshman course on classmech last year. There was a girl that was really gifted in that area, and that would show up in class with the most crazy cleavages. I was very afraid of staring at her (or hers :) ) just because my eyes could move a bit more than expected and I would feel really embarrassed, and probably her as well.
It was a very very awkward situation, I kept avoiding her or I would just answer questions to the whole class, or stare at mid-distance :) , when she would ask me something. What should I have done? It was like looking at an eclipse, there's a show out there but you don't really want to look straight at it.
This exact situation has come up for me every year for the past three years.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by grae313 » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:48 pm

mhazelm wrote:Personally I think all of us should establish a uniform: that T-shirt with Maxwell's equations that says "And there was light". You guys know which one I mean -- http://www.scienceteecher.com/Blackholeback_large.jpg.
I think we should have a choice between that one, the "eat, sleep, physics" shirt, and the, "particle physics gives me a hadron" shirt.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by kaosgrace » Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:41 am

metric wrote:
kaosgrace wrote: Of course (though it may not have occured to you gentlemen) there might be a reason why we female physics majors choose not to wear makeup and "appealing" clothing, and it might have nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not we know how.
Tell me about it, I spend 3 hours every day trying to hide my built-up body, my luxurious hair and my general good looks behind the mask of a skinny, going-bald dude that hasn't been hit by a direct solar photon in the last 2 months to be taken seriously. Life is hard for males too...
Heh :)
No, I'm really not talking about natural appearance. Truth be told, most people in most fields are pretty average; I don't think physicists are any more or less naturally gifted than e.g. sociologists, welders, or receptionists. But there is a difference in how we present ourselves. For both men and women, this is often a conscious choice. Have you noticed the prevalence of beardedness among older male scientists, or the disheveled T-shirtedness of the younger crowd?

I'm also not really talking about harassment, which I've found is thankfully rare in academia (using my military experience as the standard of comparison). My point has nothing to do with staring at cleavage or inappropriate comments. It's really much more mundane and much more unconscious than that. Most girls - especially tomboys, as many future female physicists are - tend to notice this phenomenon in early adolescence, long before the boys involved are even fully aware of what they're doing. There's just a subtle but all-too-real shift in how we're treated by boys or men when they begin to see us as attractive. It's not necessarily negative, it's not even usually uncomfortable, but it is frustrating.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by sonikajohri » Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:19 am

umm, i read some of this thread at random.. and it intrigued me enough to want to post.

i'm a girl. and oh plzzzzz, i'm not a tomboy, whatever that is, and neither are any of my friends in engineering. don't mean to brag, but... I do have full scores in GRE Physics and General, and I did get thru the JEE which anyone who knows about it would agree is the most insanely competitive physics, chem and maths combined exam in the world.

I think it was intrepede who said that "girls are just not as good as boys at real science and that there are no hot girls in physics".And there are enough specimens like him at my college for me to draw a few conclusions. 1. These people usually have a huge inferiority complex 2. They don't have a real gf 3. My college is a technical one with very few girls and a common complaint is that they rnt good-looking etc etc, however as soon as any of these guys get a gf from here, they forget all their complaints in a second.

Also, it continually surprises me that there are such few girls in the US in the hard sciences since its such an advanced country. However, I don't think for one minute its anything genetic. Its more to do with the stereotypes in your culture. In India, successful women, even in the media's eyes, are those who are doctors, scientists, lawyers, politicians etc. Thus, the number of educated girls, while still low, is rising fast, even in the hard sciences. However, in the US, it seems to me that the successful women are the ones in showbiz. This is just the perception I have sitting thousands of miles away and of course it may be perfectly wrong.

Any thoughts?

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by excel » Sat Mar 14, 2009 9:33 am

sonikajohri wrote:Also, it continually surprises me that there are such few girls in the US in the hard sciences since its such an advanced country.
Here, the proportion of female majors is low in physics, but not in all hard sciences. In many biomedical sciences programs, girls outnumber guys at the undergraduate and graduate school level. This may be an important clue to why there are disproportionately low number of girls in physics.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by cato88 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:12 pm

excel wrote:
sonikajohri wrote:Also, it continually surprises me that there are such few girls in the US in the hard sciences since its such an advanced country.
Here, the proportion of female majors is low in physics, but not in all hard sciences. In many biomedical sciences programs, girls outnumber guys at the undergraduate and graduate school level. This may be an important clue to why there are disproportionately low number of girls in physics.
Doesnt biotech tend to pay more than physics related jobs. Why the push for more females in physics it is like asking them to make less money not likely to succeed because no real incentive if youre interested in biology already?There should be a push for more males for biotech to even out biology/biotech?

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by grae313 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:17 pm

sonikajohri wrote:Also, it continually surprises me that there are such few girls in the US in the hard sciences since its such an advanced country. However, I don't think for one minute its anything genetic. Its more to do with the stereotypes in your culture. In India, successful women, even in the media's eyes, are those who are doctors, scientists, lawyers, politicians etc. Thus, the number of educated girls, while still low, is rising fast, even in the hard sciences. However, in the US, it seems to me that the successful women are the ones in showbiz. This is just the perception I have sitting thousands of miles away and of course it may be perfectly wrong.

Any thoughts?
Thanks for posting. I agree with what you said except for your last point. As excel pointed out, I believe women now outnumber men in medical degrees, and are either pretty close or ahead in law and science degrees if I'm remembering correctly. "In India, successful women, even in the media's eyes, are those who are doctors, scientists, lawyers, politicians etc." I think this is true here as well. For whatever reasons, math and physics are the last frontiers, but chemistry and biology are stuffed full with women.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by grae313 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:19 pm

kaosgrace wrote:Truth be told, most people in most fields are pretty average; I don't think physicists are any more or less naturally gifted than e.g. sociologists, welders, or receptionists.
This is ridiculous. You really think the average IQ of physicists is about the same as the average IQ of welders or receptionists?

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by mhazelm » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:45 pm

I think IQ is a poor measure; it's far too subjective, though one can find some correlation between high IQ and physicists. I think that IQ is not what keeps people out of physics; most of the time, I think it's more to do with work ethic. Most people are not geniuses, and have to work hard at physics to excel (there are some exceptions, of course). A lot of people simply do not want to put in the work required. Or, they don't keep trying (they give up quickly when they don't understand).

Seriously, how many of us understand everything the first time we try? I would imagine that successful physicists are generally characterized by persistence as a trait, rather than high IQ.

I'd be skeptical of the idea that these traits - persistence, willingness to work hard, etc. - are in a 1-1 correspondence with IQ, though they might correlate to some degree. It strikes me as arrogant to claim that because we're in physics, we're naturally more intelligent than everyone else.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by astrofan » Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:10 pm

excel wrote:
sonikajohri wrote:Also, it continually surprises me that there are such few girls in the US in the hard sciences since its such an advanced country.
Here, the proportion of female majors is low in physics, but not in all hard sciences. In many biomedical sciences programs, girls outnumber guys at the undergraduate and graduate school level. This may be an important clue to why there are disproportionately low number of girls in physics.
As I posted on the first page of this discussion:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/science/15tier.html

Somewhere in that article, it says, "They [women] earn the majority of doctorates in both the life sciences and the social sciences".

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by tensorwhat » Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:15 pm

grae313 wrote:This is ridiculous. You really think the average IQ of physicists is about the same as the average IQ of welders or receptionists?
Interesting, why don't you? Did it ever occur to you that they might be just as if not more 'intelligent' than someone studying physics? By what metric do you measure that? An IQ test? A test that was designed by people who think similarly to a person studying physics, or other rigorous academic field? I'm sure a high IQ would come from a related field, think about an IQ chart, who is at the bottom? Welders, receptionists?

Check out this essay by some cool guy......

----
What Is Intelligence, Anyway?

What is intelligence, anyway? When I was in the army, I received the kind of aptitude test that all soldiers took and, against a normal of 100, scored 160. No one at the base had ever seen a figure like that, and for two hours they made a big fuss over me. (It didn't mean anything. The next day I was still a buck private with KP - kitchen police - as my highest duty.)


All my life I've been registering scores like that, so that I have the complacent feeling that I'm highly intelligent, and I expect other people to think so too. Actually, though, don't such scores simply mean that I am very good at answering the type of academic questions that are considered worthy of answers by people who make up the intelligence tests - people with intellectual bents similar to mine?


For instance, I had an auto-repair man once, who, on these intelligence tests, could not possibly have scored more than 80, by my estimate. I always took it for granted that I was far more intelligent than he was. Yet, when anything went wrong with my car I hastened to him with it, watched him anxiously as he explored its vitals, and listened to his pronouncements as though they were divine oracles - and he always fixed my car.


Well, then, suppose my auto-repair man devised questions for an intelligence test. Or suppose a carpenter did, or a farmer, or, indeed, almost anyone but an academician. By every one of those tests, I'd prove myself a moron, and I'd be a moron, too. In a world where I could not use my academic training and my verbal talents but had to do something intricate or hard, working with my hands, I would do poorly. My intelligence, then, is not absolute but is a function of the society I live in and of the fact that a small subsection of that society has managed to foist itself on the rest as an arbiter of such matters.


Consider my auto-repair man, again. He had a habit of telling me jokes whenever he saw me. One time he raised his head from under the automobile hood to say: "Doc, a deaf-and-mute guy went into a hardware store to ask for some nails. He put two fingers together on the counter and made hammering motions with the other hand. The clerk brought him a hammer. He shook his head and pointed to the two fingers he was hammering. The clerk brought him nails. He picked out the sizes he wanted, and left. Well, doc, the next guy who came in was a blind man. He wanted scissors. How do you suppose he asked for them?"


Indulgently, I lifted by right hand and made scissoring motions with my first two fingers. Whereupon my auto-repair man laughed raucously and said, "Why, you dumb jerk, He used his voice and asked for them." Then he said smugly, "I've been trying that on all my customers today." "Did you catch many?" I asked. "Quite a few," he said, "but I knew for sure I'd catch you." "Why is that?" I asked. "Because you're so goddamned educated, doc, I knew you couldn't be very smart."


And I have an uneasy feeling he had something there.

- Isaac Asimov
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by sterculus » Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:44 pm

This has certainly gone off the initial topic, but I'll bite.

There's a fundamental difference between intelligence and acquired knowledge/skills. The auto mechanic may be very knowledgeable and skilled without being intelligent (which you might argue is more important, but that's a different topic). I think 'intelligence' more describes the ability to quickly solve unknown problems. Intelligence tests then (such as IQ) try to gauge somewhat abstract thinking ability. Physicists, and other scientists, are very good at this by the very job description.

Let me put it another way. I certainly think of myself as intelligent, but take my car to a mechanic when it has problems because I don't know much about cars. But I am absolutely certain that with a little time and a book or two I could fix anything that's wrong with the car - I just don't have the time to invest or the right tools. I would bet that this is true of the vast majority of physicists (certainly experimental physicists). But could the mechanic pick up a few physics textbooks and do a physics problem set, or design a research experiment? Probably not. There are exceptions, of course, but we're talking about large populations.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by sonikajohri » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:17 am

Come on, you can't judge people by their professions. Welding may not require brains but just because someone is a welder doesn't mean they can't be a physicist if they want to. They may lack the educational opportunity, be lazy, or find physics boring etc etc.

And a lot of physics people are also not naturally bright. They are slow but get there through a lot of repeated effort and hard work.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by tensorwhat » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:23 am

sterculus wrote: There's a fundamental difference between intelligence and acquired knowledge/skills.....

Let me put it another way. I certainly think of myself as intelligent, but take my car to a mechanic when it has problems because I don't know much about cars. But I am absolutely certain that with a little time and a book or two I could fix anything that's wrong with the car - I just don't have the time to invest or the right tools.

I think you're giving yourself the benefit of the doubt still, I'm not arguing that physicists aren't inherently 'intelligent' in some manner, which is most likely the ability to find the best route to solving an abstract problem as you put it. I still don't buy that intelligence exists on a single plane that only certain people are gifted with - I think intelligence is more of a spectrum and in the case of Asimov's essay, his mechanic's intelligence may exist on a different plane which is no higher or lower than Asimov's but just different. Perhaps his intelligence gives him the ability to not only work on cars efficiently, but also allows him a more adept window to working with his hands.....who is to say that a persons ability with their hands is a lesser quality than with their abstract problem solving ability.

That is to say, sure you can pick up a book and learn how.....but the mechanic may always be better than you at it because of his 'intelligence' and not experience, just like you might be always better than him at using physics.

I know that according to some set of standards I have a high IQ, does that make me more intelligent than x%? Who knows, but it sure means I have the ability to use my brain for science =]

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by sterculus » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:56 am

Sure there are people who are unmotivated, but we're talking populations. Do you really think that as a population people in "manual labor"/"uneducated" jobs (i.e. welder) are as intelligent as PhD physicists? There are so many levels of education where the unintelligent drop out that it is inevitable that at the end of it you'll end up with an overall smarter population.

Not everybody is naturally gifted at everything. I could never be a professional athlete - I played some sports in high school and sucked at it. Likewise, I have some musical talent but could never make enough money to survive playing music. I think the whole "anybody could do anything that they want" is an outgrowth of the "every child is a special snowflake" mentality, and is mostly crap. Although maybe I'm just an asshole.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by sterculus » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:00 am

That was in reply to sonikajohri.

tensorwhat: I'm not trying to say that "ability to build things or work well with your hands" isn't valuable, but I think it's a huge stretch to call that "intelligence". Intelligence is by the very definition mental and "abstract reasoning based". For instance, dictionary.com gives me "capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc." as the first definition, or " manifestation of a high mental capacity" as the second.

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Re: Women in Physics

Post by tensorwhat » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:06 am

sterculus wrote:Do you really think that as a population people in "manual labor"/"uneducated" jobs (i.e. welder) are as intelligent as PhD physicists?

I think the whole "anybody could do anything that they want" is an outgrowth of the "every child is a special snowflake" mentality, and is mostly crap.
As a population, I'm saying that you need to step away from the 'physicists are more intelligent than everyone who doesn't do physics' mentality for a second, and suppose that intelligence is not a singular quality based solely on problem solving ability, IQ test methods etc. - but that it might be something more general, perhaps there are different types of intelligence which yield the broad spectrum of people in a population and what they are good at.

Every child is a snowflake mentality is just a product of this singular intelligence idea that you are or aren't gifted with - which makes it crap.


I know what the dictionary defines it to be, I'm just giving food for thought that it may be different



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