Internet trolls attempted to discredit Katie Bouman’s work on black hole project

Katie Bouman, the 29-year-old researcher who became an overnight celebrity after a viral photo of her circulated the internet following her work that helped lead to the first image of a black hole Wednesday.

However, Internet trolls attempted to discredit her work on the project, saying she did not play a big part.

Bouman, a postdoctoral fellow who will soon be an assistant professor at Cal Tech, celebrated the work of a team that helped make the image of the black hole possible.

“No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat,” she wrote.

A picture of Bouman reacting to her sudden celebrity status this week went viral.

But following her newfound fame, Bouman became the target of Internet trolls who said Andrew Chael, a male colleague, did most of the work on the project. Memes of Chael that said he was responsible for “850,000 of the 900,000 of code that were written in the historic black-hole image algorithm” went viral on social media sites such as Reddit and Twitter, The Hill reported.

The first video that came up after a search of Katie Bouman on YouTube was titled, “Woman does 6% of the Work but Gets 100% of the Credit: Black Hole Photo,” NBC Newsreported. A few hours later, it appeared at the top of YouTube’s search results.

Chael responded to the memes in a thread on Twitter saying the project “was a team effort” and applauded Bouman for her work.

“So apparently some (I hope very few) people online are using the fact that I am the primary developer of the eht-imaging [sic] software library to launch awful and sexist attacks on my colleague on my friend Katie Bouman, Stop.”

“Our papers used three independent imaging software libraries (including one developed by my friend @sparse_k),” he wrote. “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 the work of many others who wrote code, debugged, and figured out how to use the code on challenging EHT data.”

Chael, an astrophysicist and student at Harvard University, clarified that he did not “write ‘850,000 lines of code’” and that “there are about 68,000 lines in the current software.”

“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,” he wrote.

Chael wrote in a follow-up tweet that he is a gay astronomer and hoped to tweet “more about black holes and other subjects I am passionate about.”

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