Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Larry Summers Speaks Truth To Harvard

This discussion of women in math and science that has embroiled Lawrence Summers of Harvard resonates with me. I think the question is are there differences out at the bleeding edge? And the answer is yes. Now that doesn’t mean women cannot ably serve in the fields of mathematics and science. It means that the next Einstein is much more likely to be male.

Before we go way out there on the edge, let’s stay closer to the average person’s experience. Marion Jones was the dominant female track sprint racer of all time (before her part in the doping crisis distracted her). Yet as a sportswriter in the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out, she could not beat the typical male state high school champion. I couldn’t beat Marion Jones riding a bicycle! But she is in the 98th percentile of humans, not the 99th. That is what I mean.
I got a 773 on my Math SAT. My older sister got an 800! She went on to an outstanding career as a computer programmer. Anyone familiar with the field knows of the major contributions of women. But Microsoft and Apple are led by Mr. Bill Gates and Mr. Steve Jobs. The difference is mostly the tolerance for risk taking. My sister would not write this blog. She would make a great “Office Twinkie” though!

If you want to see real life examples of this read She's Just Another Navy Pilot by Loree Draude Hirschman a journal of the first combat deployment of women carrier pilots. It did not begin well. Kara Spears Hultgreen, Lt. U.S. Navy, the Navy’s first fighter pilot, died as she tried to fly her F-14 aboard on October 25, 1994. Political correctness prevented an brutally frank examination of the accident. But an Internet report provided what seems to be just that examination and the conclusion was PILOT ERROR. Now you see why the report never got public exposure.

For those old enough to have driven a carburetor equipped automobile, you might remember that if you suddenly floored the gas the engine choked and died. The technical explanation is that you pushed the amount of gasoline in the airstream high enough to exceed the upper explosive limit and it could no longer support combustion. The evidence of such an event would be a plume of soot coming out the exhaust. For those of you who saw “Top Gun” you might remember that Maverick flew through the exhaust of a plane ahead causing one engine to die. The design of the F-14 is such that the engines are widely separated, so if you lose one engine, the plane tends to veer toward that side. If you don’t catch it quickly, the plane will spin. So Maverick lost control and Goose was killed as he hit the canopy during ejection.

I assume you might be beginning to see the scenario. Lt. Hultgreen came in too low and slow. The Landing Signal Officer tried to get her to correct, but she was slightly late (You‘re not the boss of me?). When she did react, she pushed the throttle too hard and flooded the port engine. The plane started to veer, she tried to correct with the flight controls causing the plane to slow and sink faster, and suddenly, it rolled left and crashed off the port quarter of the carrier. Just before it hit, her RIO (e.g. her Goose) successfully ejected. Lt. Hultgreen was a fraction of a second late and ejected into the water and was killed on impact. She was good enough for the 98th percentile, but not the 99th.

Now Larry Summers is saying the politically incorrect in the Heart of Liberalism Harvard University. He supports ROTC on campus and now recognizes subtle differences between men and women. He certainly has guts!
Update 1/20/05 - Maureen Dowd of the New York Times weighs in on the subject and conclusively proves she is unqualified to discuss science or math.
Updtae 1/20/05 - Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lisa Donovan (and her editor) provide more proof with a "25- to 30-foot-long vessel" filled with " 500 million gallons of the sludge-like material". Now there's a good trick! Most people think putting 10 pounds in a 5 pound bag is hard.


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