Science Focus (issue 022)

21 this decision, and it has been a point of controversy ever since. Many more sensational articles even go as far as to portray Hewish, her advisor, as an unsympathetic figure, but he was in fact supportive of his student’s work, and his development of the techniques and interpretation of the discovery also deserved to be recognized. Bell Burnell believed that a Nobel Prize should not be given to a graduate student (as she was at the time) unless in exceptional cases, but was upset by other media encounters. In a recent lecture, she described that reporters would ask Hewish about the astrophysics, and she would largely get personal questions, like how many boyfriends she had, and what color her hair was [7]. Jocelyn Bell became engaged to Martin Burnell, a local government officer, in 1968; her husband’s job required him to move around the UK frequently, and so she had to move positions frequently and work part-time for 18 years, raising her son in the process. As a result, when one looks at her research output, it may not be as impressive (at first sight) when compared to her male colleagues of a similar age because of such family commitments. Nevertheless, she continued to work on astronomy for many years, studying mainly neutron stars and pulsars, and campaigned for the involvement of more women in astrophysics. Active in the scientific community, she was the first ever female president of both the Institute of Physics (2008-2010) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2014-2018). Despite living in the 21st century, where there has been significant progress on many fronts of gender equality, Bell Burnell’s story still highlights an interesting question. On the surface, opportunities may still be equally available to people of all genders, but many women are still held back from their work, often by choice, by traditional family roles, as they tend to take up the majority of family duties. Although many only know Bell Burnell for the discovery of pulsars and “missing out” on the Nobel Prize, this story also forces us to examine the deeper issues regarding gender equality beyond just accessibility, and one can only wonder what she could have done if she had worked full-time. 1 Quakers: Members of the Religious Society of Friends, a historically Protestant Christian community. 2 Imposter syndrome: A feeling of inferiority among some high achievers, especially graduate students (master or PhD students), who attribute their achievements to luck instead of their competence and fear they will be found out as a fraud one day. There is a growing awareness in Western countries of this common psychological phenomenon which may lead to anxiety and depression among graduate students [8]. 說起天文學家,浮現在人們腦海中的也許是一個孤獨的 老人坐在觀測站裡,在黑夜中仰望繁星;但天上其中一種最 奇怪、最引人入勝的星體卻是由一位年輕女性在1967年發 現,然而她從未為此得到諾貝爾獎。 Jocelyn Bell 於1943 年在北愛爾蘭出生,在信奉貴格會 (Quaker)的家庭中長大(註一)。作為在上世紀五十年代生 活的女孩,要學習科學一點也不容易。在她就讀的小學裡只有 男生可以修讀理工科,而女孩子就只可以學習烹飪和縫紉 [1], 有幸在她父母極力爭取下,Bell 獲准上科學課。在讀寄宿學校 時,她的啟蒙老師 Tillott 先生鼓勵 Bell 繼續進修物理 [1]。雖 然後來成了劍橋大學的研究生,但冒名頂替症候群(imposter syndrome;註二)卻一直困擾著她:她深信自己隨時會被踢 出校,這令她更加用功來嘗試證明自己 [2]。 1967年,當時還是研究生的 Bell 是在馬拉德無線電天文 台(Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory)組裝行星際閃 爍陣列(Interplanetary Scintillation Array)望遠鏡的一員, 她在其後分析數據時首次發現了四顆脈衝星 [2]。由於無線電 望遠鏡收集的數據包含了電台廣播和恆溫器等人類活動的干 擾,因此她需要將人為干擾剔除,只留下來自外太空的電波信 號。她注意到天空某個方向出現奇怪的脈衝信號,在論文導師 要求下,她再用另一組望遠鏡核對數據,從而確定那是來自一 顆脈衝星的信號,那顆星現在被命名為 PSR B1919+21。眾所 周知當時 Bell 曾給這奇怪信號改了一個有趣的名字 — LGM, 也就是 Little Green Men(小綠人,意指外星人)[2]。 雖然作出了如此重大的發現,可是Bell Burnell 並沒有得到 1974 年的諾貝爾物理學獎;那年得獎者為她的博士論文指導 老師 Antony Hewish 和劍橋無線電天文研究組主席Martin Ryle,後者憑藉在無線電天文學上革命性的發明而獲獎。Ryle Pulsars are some of the most fascinating objects in the universe. We have since learned that they are rotating neutron stars, formed from the cores of massive stars after their collapse. Only 20 to 24 km in diameter [3], they contain around 1.4 to 2.16 times the mass of the Sun (the diameter of the Sun is around 1.4 million kilometers), and are the densest known stellar objects – any more mass, and the stellar core will collapse into a black hole instead [4]. To get a sense of how dense neutron stars are, imagine a small sugar cube that you may add into your morning coffee, weighting around two grams. However, cutting out the size of a sugar cube from a neutron star, it would weigh approximately one trillion kilograms – 5 x 1014 times of a normal sugar cube, and about the weight of Mount Everest [5]. Pulsars have very strong spinning magnetic fields, causing streams of charged par ticles (l ike electrons and protons) to shoot along the magnetic poles. When charged particles accelerate, radiation is emitted so these streams can produce powerful beams of light in a range of wavelengths from radio wave to gamma ray [3, 6]; as the neutron star and its magnetic field spin, the beam of light sweeps over Earth, creating the visual effect on paper that the star is blinking, or pulsating – hence its name.