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An interview with Melissa Franklin

I am a bit busy these days, also because of the Higgs challenge.

As a temporary linker-not-thinker, let me share the following URL with you (thanks to David Simmons-Duffin for the hyperlink):

‘Physics was paradise’ (Harvard Gazette)
It is a rather interesting interview with Melissa Franklin, an experimental particle physicist who has been the physics department chair at Harvard since 2010. I've served on several thesis committees with her which is not the only reason why I know her pretty well, of course.

She talks about her initial (and later) excitement about physics and some issues about her being the first particle experimentalist girl or woman at various places, including the Society of Fellows etc.

Someone would expect she was planning to become a feminist activist somewhere – which I think is unfortunately a reasonable worry but I agree it's unfair for Melissa. Well, she's still largely responsible for the disinvitation letters after an admission committee realized that they forgot about the girls quotas – several cool boys got their letters saying "please ignore the previous letter that you were accepted, we forgot about your dick, prick". But that was a sort of an anomaly.

Needless to say, the unexpectedness of Jewish women in physics is heavily overrated because Jewish women still have a higher average IQ than the non-Jewish white men (by 7 points – 10 plus points for their Jewish membership, 3 minus points for being female, roughly speaking). Even though the standard deviation of the IQ distribution is still about 10% smaller than it is for men which suppresses women – even Jewish women – near the Sheldon-style highs like IQ=187, the extra 7 or 10 points to start help a big deal.

The interview is about many other interesting things, social and otherwise, including a potential future accelerator.

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reader Hacienda said...

At the risk of demeaning Jewish women, I've always thought Jewish women complement Jewish male academics to a T.

The alignment is just so right. She also has a stark reactivity to her. Like becoming a feminist leader just because others warned her off of it.

People talk about the mysteriousness of Jewish academic performance like it is a mystical thing.

I say look a Jewish women for a clue.

reader Roby 83 said...

...and 10 minus points for being a feminist:)

reader Rathnakumar said...


Dr. Motl,

You will enjoy this recent presentation made by Prof. Singer to moron Andrew Dessler's class:

reader Bill Bogus said...

Do you realize that IQ tests are prepared so that men and women gain equal points in average rendering comparison meaningless. Psychologists sacrifice quite a lot for maintaining this equality and are actively engaged in creating tests that would be even more incapable of showing differences between minorities. So when you compare men and women even in different social groups, you do not really do anything other than fooling yourself. You must realize this. I don't know where you get your -3 points for women but it is quite widely known that IQ tests that 'favor' men are pretty much banned(you should have expected this even without looking up ( ) ).

Generally, I am very surprised by your apparent enthusiasm about IQ tests(seen in quite a lot of your posts) when it is quite well known that they are not good at showing exceptionally intelligent people(they are good at predicting mentally weak people though) And it should not be very surprising having seen the type of questions that are presented.

I don't know if you have looked at IQ tests or maybe taken some, but it is very surprising for me that you suggest these silly tests are even worth mentioning when talking about physicists for example.
Did you know for example that creativity or being a genius(whatever those things are) lose correlation with IQ score at around 125 and above?

You seem to believe a lot of popular beliefs about IQ score which are not well founded or completely wrong.


reader plutoniannights said...

Lubos, how solid is science behind the gender disparity on IQ tests in your opinion? In particular, the different SDs (the most important aspect here) and how well we can trust that at the far right-wing part of the Bell curve... where presumably it gets harder to use the data, since most IQ tests are not designed for those extremes (not to mention that the researchers who designed the tests probably are not at that level of intelligence themselves).

reader Rehbock said...

Can you cite any source showing the "well known" assymetry that IQ tests are better at showing stupid than exceptional?
I couldn't find it. I did find an example that could support such. Apparently Rutgers and other universities are being pressured by the liberals and feminists to put warning labels on books and course materials lest a sensitive student be offended . . .

I suspect that this is not a socially conservative thought but it is hard to believe that people can be that dumb.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Hi! Both the mean value and the standard deviation for all people; for all women; for all men; and even for all people, women, or men in sufficiently large nations which can culturally understand the questions are very solid. It is rather implausible that the same results are being repeated so often. So I would say that the error margin in the IQ and its standard deviation is of order one. These numbers depend on tons of people and the errors mostly average out.

For all humans, the distribution is Gaussian by *definition*. You know, there is no natural "linearity" on the scale of mental skills which is why it's desirable - and indeed, realized - to parameterize the IQ according to some additional fixed convention. The convention is that the IQ for all living humans should be a normal distribution around 100 with 15 at the std. deviation.

The standard deviation for men and women are separately known accurately - they also depend on virtually everyone. However, the distributions for men only and women only are no longer Gaussian in general. For many reasons, however, such modestly filtered distirbutions are still approximately Gaussian and the narrower distribution, and the women's one surely is, simply have to decrease much more quickly at extreme values. And they do - all predictions of the simple curves seem to be right on the money.


reader plutoniannights said...

Thanks for your answer. Do we always find the same SDs for men/women when considering different countries/cultures/races? Have these results changed over time (someone might argue that you could get more variability if a subgroup has more freedom to pursue higher education etc - not sure if this is true)?

reader Shannon said...

In general, Jewish might be more intelligent than the rest of us but why do they have to push it (this intelligence)) to the point of morbidity ? It always defeats its purpose. Isn't it the height of stupidity?

reader Michael said...

Even if tests "are prepared so that men and women gain equal points" (source?), it is not at all guaranteed that it will actually work. Trying to come up with a single test that minimizes the difference between men and women and then looking at the (unavoidable) residual difference is interesting in its own right. It is certainly not "rendering comparison meaningless".

reader RAF III said...

It won't be long before everyones' IQ is above average. FORWARD!!!

reader RMB said...


A fascinating read. Seems like a fairly straightforward, no-nonsense person. Thanks for posting this.

reader Alex said...

High IQ is important to intellectual inferiors.The human race is very entertaining.

reader Bill Bogus said...

From the link I provided saying "you should have expected this even without looking up"

"Most IQ tests are constructed so that there are no overall score differences between females and males.[109][110] Popular IQ batteries such as the WAIS and the WISC-R are also constructed in order to eliminate sex differences.[111]
In a paper presented at the International Society for Intelligence
Research in 2002, it was pointed out that because test constructors and
the Educational Testing Service (which developed the SAT) often
eliminate items showing marked sex differences in order to reduce the
perception of bias, the "true sex" difference is masked."

On a political note, you have an incorrect picture of reality, if you think the PC mafia would allow an IQ test to be widespread if it would show men to be superior over women.

reader Rehbock said...

I suppose you are right about that. But I am not so sure women don't just want us to think we are smarter :-)

reader Rehbock said...

I am not sure this goes as far as I had read your earlier post. But close enough. So I am now wondering do the high scores bounce more than low scores due some inherent problem in gradation of stupid or conversely is it simply hard to be working mind and some days genius is tired or lazy, while all days idle is well ... Idle

reader Rehbock said...

What causes you to say that Jews are pushing their intelligence? It sounds like you are referring to some offemsive stereotype reads but perhaps there is something I misunderstand.

reader Shannon said...

Intelligence can be pushed by working on it, didn't you know that Rehbock? Maybe you need to work on it yourself.

reader Smoking Frog said...

Maybe they "push" it in your native France? Or maybe the French are imagining things? France does have a reputation for antisemitism - or actually, all of Europe has this reputation.

Here in the U.S., it's pretty well known that (Ashkenazi) Jews have high IQs, but I can't say I'm aware of any pushing of the fact. There is a prejudice against non-Jews that they're stupid, but this is probably only known to a very small number of non-Jews, since Jews are only a tiny percentage of the population, and they don't go around telling non-Jews about it anyway. I just happen to have known a very small number of Jews well enough that they told me about it. Example: If a store clerk shows stupidity with a Jewish customer, the customer thinks "Stupid goy!" But he doesn't let on to the clerk that he thinks this.

reader Smoking Frog said...

I don't understand what you mean by "working on it."

reader Shannon said...

Dear Smoking Frog, FYI I am not the French people. I am only Shannon which is already quite a lot, I do understand your confusion ;-).

reader Shannon said...

I mean "working on it".

reader Smoking Frog said...

OK, so you don't want to explain.

reader Smoking Frog said...

Oh, well, then, it's not the Jewish people who are "pushing" or "working on" their IQs, either, whatever that means.

reader Smoking Frog said...

You haven't shown relevance to what Lubos said. All you have to criticize is the 3-point difference, but then you should address the fact that he claims it. "Looking up" the fact that most of the tests are adjusted wouldn't tell him it was wrong.

reader Bill Bogus said...

No. I criticize among other things the ( (average score for men) - (average score for women) ) because it is an artificially adjusted value(meant to be set to zero).

Therefore Lubos' reasoning by which he calculates that Jewish women are smarter than white men is completely bogus. There could be a natural difference of +10 or -20 points between sexes, but IQ tests are deliberately made incapable of revealing it.

That 3 points is pure error and it is only the lesser reason I kindly advise him against his overuse of IQ tests for analysing people who can be expected to possess high mental capabilities.


reader Uncle Al said...

In a given village or area, the demonstrated smartest males became rabbis by popular support. There was strong social push to be arranged-wed to the richest folk's daughters. Selection pressure on both sides for brains. Beauty, not so much.

America enjoyed virulent anti-Semitism. The best universities rejected Jews by default. One had to be astounding to get in, - which was not in short supply. Asians applying to the University of California are default one to two sigma pushed down the admissions list (and are still 40% of the matriculated population). Walk into a lecture hall first day, see a lot of THEM, know you cannot complete, flee. Had Jews or Asians been admitted quid pro quo, their mythic American ascendancy would be muted. Asians are culturally cooperative (less for Koreans), Jews are "pushy." Two Jews, three opinions.

Diversity works identically to opposite ends, succeeding mightily in kind, including the "pushy" part,

reader Uncle Al said...

Luboš trusts statistics when dealing with individuals. If you find a 20 carat raw diamond during a Canadian fishing trip, don't start whining about kimberlite. There are more diamonds upstream. City University of New York, the crappy place immigrants' kids went because they could afford nothing better/else, was bursting with Jews and their ghastly bridge and tunnel accents.

A dozen CUNY Nobel Laureates: 1) No bullšit Peace or Literature stuff, 2) 17% women. Diversity transformed CUNY diplomas into toilet paper. "all knowledge is subjective and based on one's position in society" Riiight

reader John Archer said...

Selection pressure from both sides then, internal and external. That'll do it! :)

"Asians applying to the University of California are default one to two sigma pushed down the admissions list (and are still 40% of the matriculated population)."

I don't understand what you mean. Let's say there are initially 2,000 candidates of which 20% are Asian. With no "pushing down" one would expect, say, 20% (200) Asian representation in the 1,000 admissions (all other things being equal). Standard deviation of the Asian intake is ~√(1000*0.2*0.8) = 12.6. A 'two-sigma push down' means 200 - 2*12.6 = 175 Asian admissions. Is that the kind of thing you mean? Also, are you allowing for the slightly higher IQs of Asians pushing the admission rate back up a little?

Is there similar "push down" for whitey? All to the benefit of the lower-IQ spectrally challenged?

Hey, 'spectrally'— from spectrum or spectre/spook? What a coincidence that the distinction is rendered redundant here.

By the way, I understand that in North America the term 'Asian' is taken as a general/default reference to East Asians, i.e. Chinese etc. Here in the UK on the other hand, overwhelmingly the default reference is to south asians, most of whom are pakis/muslimes, a most alien, high-profile and unpleasant bunch. We have Chinese too but their number is a lot smaller and their presence is wholly low-profile and unproblematic.

Not that ANY of them should be here. There was NEVER any democratic mandate to destroy the demos. Far from it.

BTW, Uncle Al, I find I often encounter great difficulty in understanding your posts. Is there any chance you could be a little less assumptive/opaque for the benefit of us non-Murcans. :)

reader Smoking Frog said...

By the way, I understand that in North America the term 'Asian' is taken
as a general/default reference to East Asians, i.e. Chinese etc.

Yes, that's true. I don't think we have an "umbrella" word for Indians and Pakistanis, at least not in common usage. We just call them "Indians" and "Pakistanis."

Many people regard Indians as white, more or less. From what I've seen of the UK & Ireland, "white" over there means British or European and nothing else.

reader Smoking Frog said...

America enjoyed virulent anti-Semitism. The best universities rejected
Jews by default. One had to be astounding to get in, - which was not in
short supply.

When did the best universities reject Jews by default? Harvard had an unstated Jewish quota during the first half of the 20th century, which is not the same as rejecting by default.

As for virulence, Harry Houdini (Erich Weiss), who was the son of a rabbi in Wisconsin, said he was shocked by the virulence and ubiquity of European antisemitism when he visited that continent (some time around WWI). He had never encountered its like in the United States (which is not to say that there was no antisemitism here, of course).

reader Shannon said...

Studying, searching, expand knowledge etc...

reader Shannon said...

Smoking Frog, did you encounter the word "morbidity" somewhere in the sentence? Good, now, read again.

reader Dr. King Schultz said...

That was the dumbest post I have ever read about IQ. You embarrass yourself when you venture out beyond your niche, Lubos. Also, IQ's as high as Sheldon's don't really exist because there are no way to measure them due to lack of a large enough sample size to differentiate 170 from 180 from 190 so forth.

reader Dr. Dow Jones said...

Lubos, you may be a temporary blogger but you're a permanent asshole.

reader Uncle Al said...

Asian UC applicants require SAT or ACT scores 1-2 sigma above the general applicant population to be equally considered. Their entrance statistics are still greatly skewed above population fraction Asian,

If graduation statistics were shown, the blue area - largely admitted by diversity - would largely disappear. It's a terrible, political waste of scarce resources beginning in subsidized pre-schools - and the US government thoroughly knows it,

reader Miguel Rodriguez Glaudemans said...

quote "It's normal in NATO+EU member states for officials and activists to get upset by other people's tweets."

Just had to login to LOL. This seems to be a global tendency.

I am currently doing a little report on some Romania themed paper. Would you be available for a small chat?

reader bob deeb said...

Well , I tend to favor eben Alexander's side and it's been strengthened by the research of the recently peer reviewed published work of doctor sam parnia's aware study which is the largest nde research study to date .

Clearly in Nde's particularly veridical Nde's there is something going on and it simply can't be dismissed as a
Hallucination , but in 2013 materialist-atheists ( not all atheists are non spiritual atheists but most are) had some hope in that medical science recorded a surge of deep brain activity that went on , an activity that didn't show up on EEG because it happened far too deep in the brain for the EEG to record . This deep brain surge lasted for 30 seconds . They immediately claimed that this deep brain surge was proof that Nde's were caused by the brain.

However a 57 year old social worker in parnia's aware study changed all that when he had a veridical nde that was verified to have lasted for a full 2.5 minutes after the supposed brain surge would end . In other words this is a non functioning brain having conscious awareness for 2.5 minutes .

This is compelling evidence for survival which is very hard to get around