Wed Dec 19, 2012, 01:58 PM
DreamGypsy (1,920 posts)
Person of the Year Runner-Up: Fabiola Gianotti
Congratulations Ms. Gianotti!!
Her native smarts and intuitive people skills had earned her a spot managing a team of 3,000 at the greatest research facility physicists have ever built. And all that was before this summer, when she and her CERN colleagues announced that, yes, they had well and truly captured the Higgs. In doing so, they had nailed the particle that gives other fundamental particles their mass. That in turn completed the so-called standard model of physics, the grand framework that ties together the universeís three great forces ó the strong force, the weak force and electromagnetism ó and governs the behavior of subatomic particles. Look around at the familiar universe of planets and suns and moons and people. What happened at CERN helps explain why they exist as they do.
The announcement caused the kind of global sensation you donít always see in response to a scientific discovery, and three names earned an equally unusual level of fame ó Gianotti, who headed one of the experiments that confirmed the Higgs; her colleague Joe Incandela, who led the other; and Rolf Heuer, the research director of CERN. It was Gianotti who perhaps received the most attention, principally for her leadership role and her manifest gifts but occasionally for a reason as predictable as it is misguided: her gender. Physics is a male-dominated field, and the assumption is that a woman has to overcome hurdles and face down biases that men donít.
But that just isnít so. Women in physics are familiar with this misconception and acknowledge it mostly with jokes. Of course there are many women in leadership positions at CERN, said one physicist. Why do you think the experiments have been so successful? ....
Maybe she will feel welcome in the company of all the females winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics: Marie Curie (1903) and Maria Goeppert Mayer 1963.
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