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The Woman Scientist Who Collated Millions Of GB Of Space Data To Give Us The First-Ever Black Hole Image

Image Credits: Katie Bouman

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The internet is already abuzz with the first-ever image of a black hole, revealed yesterday by an international team comprising more than 200 scientists. The striking image, whose significance cannot be summed up in simple terms, is undoubtedly another landmark achievement, setting precedence for a new era in space science research.

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The major share of the credit, perhaps, should be given to one researcher – Katie Bouman, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the California Institute of Technology. The black hole image would not have come together without the pivotal algorithm she developed, which helped compile an endless trove of information and imagery into a single, comprehensible picture. Millions of gigabytes of data sent by eight powerful telescopes from around the world could be collated together with the help of her groundbreaking algorithm, the end result of which once again stood as a blazing proof of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

First-ever image of a black hole

According to CNN reports, the picture is the shadow of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy.

Katie Bouman

On Wednesday, Katie Bouman shared a photo of herself on Facebook, which shows the spectacular picture of the black hole gradually taking shape on a computer screen in front of her. She captioned the picture as, “Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed.”

 

Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed.

Posted by Katie Bouman on Wednesday, April 10, 2019

“We all watched as the images appeared on our computers. The ring came so easily. It was unbelievable,” Bouman shared with Time Magazine.

Katie Bouman’s background

Bouman graduated summa cum laude in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2011. She later completed her Master’s and PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and joined the Event Horizon Telescope team at Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow.
With a background in Computer Science, Bouman’s domain of expertise was as far as possible from black holes, one of the crucial aspects of astronomy, that has continued to baffle scientists for ages. However, the team considered her the best person to formulate the algorithm that would put everything together in place.

Difficult, but not impossible, proved Bouman

The earlier notion among yesteryear’s scientists was that imaging a black hole necessitates a telescope the size of the Earth. In a 2016 TED Talk, Katie Bouman had explained how she and her team were developing a cleverer alternative to capture the enigmatic black hole.

She mentioned, “However, as you can imagine, building a single-dish telescope the size of the Earth is impossible. By connecting telescopes from around the world, an international collaboration called the Event Horizon Telescope is creating a computational telescope the size of the Earth, capable of resolving structure on the scale of a black hole’s event horizon. This network of telescopes is scheduled to take its very first picture of a black hole next year.”

Katie Bouman’s contribution in scientific terms

So, what exactly is Katie Bouman’s contribution in scientific terms? A photo showing her standing in front of a huge stack of hard drives is widely circulating on social media. The hard drives contain several petabytes (1 petabyte = 1 million gigabytes) of information, as each of the eight telescopes delivered around 1 petabyte of data, states Fortune. The data was noisy, messy, disoriented and of course, gargantuan in volume. That was until Bouman’s algorithm streamlined it effectively.

Katie Bouman

The photo is already drawing comparisons with Margaret Hamilton’s famous picture beside a tall tower of books and records, containing the code that helped man land on the moon.

Katie Bouman

She credits her team for the achievement

Bouman was one among the few woman scientists in the Event Horizon Telescope team, whose years of research culminated in the ultimate achievement. Time magazine reports that she actually began working on the project during her post-doctoral days at the MIT. They had collated the data quite a while ago, but the confidential project was meant to be kept a secret till the official date of public announcement.

“It’s been really hard to keep our lips sealed. I hadn’t even told my family about the picture,” she revealed to Time.

In her latest Facebook post, Katie congratulated and ascribed her team, summarising their sincere hard work of years.

I'm so excited that we finally get to share what we have been working on for the past year! The image shown today is the…

Posted by Katie Bouman on Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Efforts For Good take

Women in science still constitute only 30% of the workforce. Women in space science, even rarer. Still, the hopeful part is that their numbers have been consistently increasing in the past few years. As a woman scientist, Katie Bouman is definitely a frontrunner in black hole research, and undoubtedly, her research will pave the way for more future women to delve deeper into the mysteries of a black hole.

Recently, Indian author Minnie Vaid published a book about the women scientists at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), who spearheaded India’s first Mars mission. The book highlights how even in India, women space scientists are working away from the limelight, etching their names in distant galaxies, in the letters of light-years or quantum spacetime.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

Image Credits: Katie Bouman

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

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Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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