Sunday, 22 September, 2019

Who Is Katie Bouman, the Woman Behind the First Black Hole Photo?

National Science Foundation
First image of black hole was released by scientists National Science Foundation First image of black hole was released by scientists
Sandra Phillips | 02 September, 2019, 12:26

You can thank a woman, Katie Bouman, an MIT grad student developed a crucial algorithm that helped devise imaging methods. Not only that, Bouman, the 29-year-old postdoctoral fellow who is a part of the team who worked hard to capture the image, also became famous overnight because of her contribution to the scientific breakthrough. In her TEDx Talk How to take a picture of a black hole, Bouman first talks about the black hole imagined in the movie Interstellar, or the possible visuals of a black hole theorized by Albert Einstein.

MIT proudly posted a picture of Bouman comparing her work to the research that helped astronauts to land on the moon.

Bouman's CHIRP system also produced a more reliable image than traditional methods of astrophotography by creating a model that adjusts the information provided by the radio telescopes and using available data to meet expectations about what the black hole should look like. In addition, black holes by definition are supposed to be invisible - although they can give off a shadow whenthey interact with the material around them.

Katie Bouman developed the algorithm three years ago while working with MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the MIT Haystack Observatory and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

But Dr Bouman, now an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology, insisted the team that helped her deserves equal credit.

Bouman's work did not go unnoticed.

She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of MI and went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her master's and doctorate.

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"Together, we all make each other's work better; the number of commits doesn't tell the full story of who was indispensable", said Chael, noting that he didn't write 850,000 lines of code and that the software he worked on has only about 68,000 lines. "It came together because of lots of different people from many different backgrounds".

In a thread, he wrote that he was the primary developer of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) imaging library, a fact that some are using "to launch terrible and sexist attacks" on his colleague.

The first ever black hole image released by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) as its first results at a press conference on Wednesday shows a halo of dust and gas located 500 million trillion km from the Earth.

How did her algorithm create the image?

Harvard graduate student Andrew Chael, who was a member of the global team that took the groundbreaking photo, is slamming her haters and defending her work, saying it was key to developing the algorithm that captured the extraordinary snap. Originally from IN, her father is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University. She directed the verification and selection of the parameters for the data from the telescopes.

The data from eight of those telescopes were collected on hundreds of hard drives and flown in to a central processing center. "If all of them recover the same general structure, then that builds your confidence". "However, you might be surprised to know that that may soon change".

How to See a Black Hole: The Universe's Greatest Mystery can be seen in the United Kingdom on BBC iPlayer.

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