"How to take a picture of a black hole," a 2017 TED talk by grad student Katie Bouman who then helped make it happen

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/04/11/how-to-take-a-picture-of-a-b.html


In September, Bouman will start her teaching career as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology.

Important as teaching is, being a professor at a top-tier research university like Caltech is not just about teaching. Here’s an article about someone being lauded for their groundbreaking research, and now you’re treating them as if they’re solely going into a teaching job. Feynman was a professor at Caltech, and a great teacher, but do you say he had a teaching job?


“Is it possible to see something that, by definition, is impossible to see?”

I’m going with “no” on this one.


‘Important as teaching is’…‘solely going into a teaching job’…I’m not sure that you think that teaching is that important, or at least teaching is positioned lower on a hierarchy of jobs.


Tenure track, though. Well done!


I’m showing my daughter that video. Smart women: Represent!


She lost me at around 11:03, where the consistency of their algorithm was vindicated by getting the same black hole image reconstruction from 3 different sources: black hole simulation images, astronomy images, everyday images (“Results From Different Puzzle Pieces”).

I would’ve thought it would prove consistency if they all looked different; that is, different puzzle pieces resulted in different puzzle reconstructions.

3:20 “Due to a phenomenon called ‘the fraction’…”
[shows graphic with one number divided by another number]

yes, I do recall that phenomenon from 3rd grade math class…

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At 4:16 she shows a picture of what the black hole would look like “if we had an earth-sized telescope”

The picture basically looks like the end product from yesterday, without the firey orange color.

Lol, why did we wait two years?

edit: holy crap, freeze at 11:47 and it’s got the orange glow now, too!

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“Lol, why did we wait two years?”

Because it is important to verify proposed ideas with actual facts.

You shouldn’t just say “I postulate black holes” and never check to see if they are real.

This is partly to prove that Einstein’s theories were correct when they showed black holes as a possible outcome of the math.

So we had a theory in the 1900s saying black holes could exist. Since then, scientists have found data that highly suggest that black holes do exist - the theory predicted some behavior in the cosmos, and we’ve seen that behavior - but not seen a black hole. New technology was created, and this most recent group harnessed that technology to “photograph” a black hole.

Basic Complicated Heroic Science!


Ah, I see. I messed up my Igon Values.

This is awesome. I loved how she tried to keep it relevant with the kids by quoting the Stones.

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One can acknowledge something’s importance without it being one’s own personal priority. I don’t want to speak for any black hole imaging pioneers, but spending years studying for and then building an ongoing, top-flight research program, to then be described as “going into teaching”, can feel inaccurate at the very least.

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Not to detract from her clearly obvious achievements but she wasn’t the lead of the project.


My understanding is she was lead on the data processing portion. So while not the lead for the entire project, which involved over 60 institutions around the world, but lead on the crucial portion of figuring out how to process the data gathered by the project.


If I understand the papers correctly she was the lead of one of four independent sub teams who worked on the image processing (using different methods).


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Why do half the people in this comment thread feel the need to nitpick some aspect of the reporting of this story, instead of just saying “Holy crap, she’s amazing!” TF is wrong with you?

Also…Holy crap, she’s amazing!


Update: risked dropping my phone into her bath, but it was worth it for the best bath time TED talk ever.

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Because she’s a woman. Always happens.