I was delighted to read of the award of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics to Donna Strickland, of the University of Waterloo. Contrary to the incendiary remarks made by a rather bitter Italian physicist at CERN recently, there are some brilliant female physicists. I have the privilege of collaborating with one at work. It is great to see this year’s Nobel Prize recognising great physics done by a woman.
To my trans friends who believe in the lady brain – fluffy, pink and obsessed with nail polish – think again! Professor Strickland’s lady brain is full of laser physics. There are many reasons why I am unhappy about the idea of being a woman trapped in a man’s body: there is no evidence that the fundamental potentialities of male and female brains are different and, as somebody who has in the course of their work mentored a great many talented female scientists, I rail at the notion that there might be something intrinsic about women’s brains that could in some way prevent them from realising their intellectual dreams. Professor Strickland reminds us that there’s nothing about the lady brain that prevents it seriously out-performing the vast majority of male brains at physics. Her Nobel Prize is a fantastic achievement in all sorts of ways.
It was recently revealed that an attempt to establish a Wikipedia page about Professor Strickland was rebuffed by Wikipedia’s moderators a year ago. Apparently, they believed that the “submission’s references do not show that the subject qualifies for a Wikipedia article.” Or perhaps that women just can’t be important physicists? This is profoundly disappointing. And I must admit to being surprised that Strickland is only an associate professor at her institution – it seems extraordinary that she is not a full professor when her work has been sufficiently widely acknowledged to merit the award of a Nobel Prize.
Thus there is still work to do. But its great to be able to celebrate the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics to Donna Strickland.