By David Futrelle
Last weekend, Italian physicist Alessandro Strumia gave a talk at a CERN conference in which, he claimed, he would use “bibliometrics data” to answer questions about “a new global symmetry.”
In fact, the talk had nothing to do with high-energy physics, per se; instead, Strumia trotted out a series of flawed arguments and problematic studies in order to “prove” that the preponderance of men in the field is not the result of discrimination against women but rather reflects the fact that men’s brains are better suited to physics than women’s.
Physics, he declared, was “invented and built by men” who are now being undermined in their field, and discriminated against, by “cultural Marxists” determined to tear down their manly accomplishments.
At one point in the presentation, he noted that he himself had been passed over for a job that was given to a woman he implied was less qualified because she had fewer citations than him. He identified her, and a woman on the selection committee, by name.
While the talk itself is not available online, Strumia’s slides are, and they give a pretty clear picture of his presentation.
Here’s one of the slides, which will give you some idea of the quality of his presentation. (Click on the image for a larger version.)
Yesterday, CERN announced that it was suspending Strumia “from any activity at CERN with immediate effect, pending investigation into last week’s event.”
Well, we can only assume the scientist they are suspending is Strumia, since they didn’t mention him by name. Indeed, while CERN was quick to denounce the substance of Strumia’s talk, they haven’t exactly been forthcoming about their organization’s long ties to the researcher.
The group’s first statement on the incident referred to him only as “an invited scientist.” The updated statement announcing the suspension identified him as “a scientist from one of the collaborating universities.” Never mind that Strumia, who teaches at Pisa University, has been working with CERN for many years and uses a CERN email for professional correspondence.
Strumia has also been suspended by the National Nuclear Physics Institute (INFN), an Italian research agency which he also worked with.
In other news, Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics today for her work on lasers; she shares the award with two male researchers.
We Hunted the Mammoth relies entirely on readers like you for its survival. If you appreciate our work, please send a few bucks our way! Thanks!