Well whoo-eesh. Perhaps a few readers of the news of a giant new Milner Prize in fundamental physics felt momentarily satisfied in a culturally-blinkered sort of way, upon seeing the first name Nima on the list, that at least one woman is included among winners of this giant new theoretical physics freebie. Russian gigajillionaire Yuri Milner this week announced his gift of $3 million each to nine people, many of them publically-hailed rock stars of that brigade. But, as many readers of this here tracker site know, Nima Arkani-Hamed is a fella too.
I am only blogging on this gender angle because while I applaud the winners I am too dim and lazy to comprehend in any real detail what these men do. One tries, but on the work of people such as this my fallback strategy is circumlocution via metaphor and lively quote. Onward - I cannot think off hand of who deserves to be there and lacks a Y chromosome. Lisa Randall comes to mind and I am sure many in the science journalism biz can think of a few more. The string theory/extra dimensions crew is represented by the scary smart Ed Witten and nobody could supplant him. On the other hand, inflation theory gets two people, Alan Guth and Andrei Linde. (I just Googled around and found an American Physical Society website that lists women physicists of the month. It is satisfying to see it includes some theorists. Each has a profile that makes her seem an acme of brilliance. Here may even be some future Milnerists. )
A hustle over to Sean M. Carroll's Cosmic Varaince über-blog, to see what he thinks of the prize and maybe of the all-boys club that comprises these laureates' first iteration, found nothin'. Looking further for physics blogs the first one is not by a working physicist, but by journalist John Matson of Scientific American. He goggles at the money. I mention him in part because his well-crafted blog is also source of the bar chart illus up top. Back to sex. I may have mentioned before that I favor the idea that having just one X chromosome leaves the male genome less stable. Ergo, more idiots and psychopaths. Also, more obsessive workaholic brainiac overachievers many of whom don't have real lives (there ARE, one stresses, women of all sorts too). The mean is about the same. 'Could easily be wrong. It is just a hypothesis - or worse, a wild guess.
The prize's first round, by the way, appears to be a catch-up of sorts. Expect one and not a full squad of winners every year. The first class will help Milner select them from here on.
A few of the stories:
- NYTimes - Kenneth Chang: 9 Scientists Receive a New Physics Prize ; Where Chang reveals briefly that Milner is no idiot. He refused to talk about why the winners all are men.
- Philadelphia Inquirer - Tom Avril: Nine theoretical physicists to split new $27 million prize ; Avril's editors quash immediately any suspicion there is a woman on the roster - they ran Arkani-Hamed's picture. It turns out he was in Philly to give a talk.
- RIA Novosti: Russian Billionaire Yury Milner Offers Physics Prize ; Says he is now a role model for others among Russia's superrich.
- Guardian (UK) Ian Sample: Biggest science prize takes web tycoon from social networks to string theory ; Learned something here - Milner plans some additional prizes including a New Horizons in Physics one for promising junior researchers, and an occasional unscheduled "special ad-hoc fundamental physics prize" that can be delivered without a formal nomination process.
- Forbes - Eric Savitz: 9 Scientists Get $3M Each In Billionaire Milner's Physics Prize ; a model of succinct explanation. It says how the prizes work and is loaded with links. Text includes a bulleted list of the winners with short summaries of what they did and links to more.
- The Voice of Russia - Svetlana Kalmykova : New Russian physics prize three times bigger than Nobel ; Wotta collage illus. It has Milner standing in a defiant; lens-gazing pose and Alfred Nobel's embossed portrait on his prize's medal staring quizzically at the upstart.
- LA Times - Eryn Brown: Caltech theorist Kitaev wins new $3-million physics prize ; Always the local angle. Kitaev is one of three Russian-born winners. The story does link to the whole list.
Grist for the Mill: Fundamental Physics Prize website.
- Charlie Petit