Thursday, October 26, 2023

A Theoretical Physicist Who Is Also A Social Media Star

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler

NPR's Scott Neuman has written - I forget that these are broadcast, too, after all it is radio - a profile of theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, emphasis on her social media career. It is titled "She got famous on YouTube. Now it helps fund her research in quantum gravity."

She has provided content for a number of my posts. I'm in no position to judge many of her comments or her credibility, lacking the credentials, but I admire her for her contrary views on how the world works, her relentless focus on scientific evidence and for providing me another slant on issues in theoretical physics. 

Because she is a woman in a field dominated by men she is sometimes viewed as a role model. She "eschews the  'role model' label." This is her self-assessment: "'I'm a sarcastic, annoying, permanently grumpy middle-aged woman, and no one in their right mind should strive to be anything like me'."

Neuman covers her success on social media in one basic observation. Her Patreon channel, "Science Without the Gobbledygook" now has a million subscribers."  Then he continues with a discussion of what that includes.

Th reporting includes comments on her great sense of humor, responses to critics (she has strong critics who don't agree with her physics as well as her view of theoretical physics; quotes from theoretical physicists about the value of her contributions; her "sparring" with Don Lincoln who has made significant scientific contributions as well as educational contributions on Fermilab's YouTube channel (I am a fan of Dr. Lincoln's explanations of physics events and ideas and check it somewhat frequently but not as often as I should), but mostly about their shadow boxing on the scientific wisdom of constructing ever larger and more powerful particle accelerators (Lincoln is an experimentalist; Hossenfelder a theoretician); examples of some of her controversial points-of-view, including climate change; on being both a scientist and an explainer; self-funding research; and more. Oh, i forgot she has done self-produced music videos which I very much like.

She answers such criticisms and her critics in what we expect: "' Basically I don't care. I do my thing.'"

This is great reporting and worth reading. It is linked throughout.

And if Scott Neuman is not a familiar household name here is NPR's biography.


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