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Space Science

15-Year-Old Student Discovers New Pulsar 103

For the second time in as many years, a student has made a discovery while participating in the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC), a joint program between the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and West Virginia University designed to get students and teachers involved in analyzing data from the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). This time it was high school sophomore Shay Bloxton, who discovered a brand new pulsar. "For Bloxton, the pulsar discovery may be only her first in a scientific career. 'Participating in the PSC has definitely encouraged me to pursue my dream of being an astrophysicist,' she said, adding that she hopes to attend West Virginia University to study astrophysics. Late last year, another West Virginia student, from South Harrison High School, Lucas Bolyard, discovered a pulsar-like object called a rotating radio transient. His discovery also came through participation in the PSC."
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15-Year-Old Student Discovers New Pulsar

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  • Slashdotter? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:40PM (#30863876) Homepage Journal

    There's someone here whose sig is "I live in my mother's basement, but I'm only fifteen". I wonder if it's the same fifteen year old? At any rate, hooray for today's youth!

  • by PSandusky ( 740962 ) <{psandusky} {at} {}> on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:58PM (#30864118)

    I keep thinking that looking for pulsars could've just as easily been something that someone with a hankering for SETI@home's animus could've farmed out to a grid. What's so beautiful about this is that the PSC gets work done for astrophysics at the same time that it adds something to science education. (Too bad more schools couldn't have access to these kinds of things. It may be educational natural selection, but it's still a downer.)

  • Re:Female... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:59PM (#30864148)

    could be? I'd say she already is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:04PM (#30864206)

    You know, if she got some glasses that were a little more stylish, did something with her hair, ... she's got a lot going for her!

    Now, before being accused of being a sexist pig, I'd point out that well, I am BUT there's nothing wrong in pointing out attractive women scientists to girls - such as Lisa Randall of Harvard.

    I think many girls have this opinion that science isn't a "feminine" thing - at least that's an opinion of a female classmate had back in my undergrad physics days.

    I think to encourage girls into science it should be pointed out that you can be a babe and be a scientist. Should we have to do that? Well, in an ideal World that short answer is 'no' but in a World were vapidness and looks dominate, I think it's a necessary evil.

  • A good thing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tkohler ( 806572 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:25PM (#30864474)
    It seems like letting high schoolers have access to facilities like this is a good thing: []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:45PM (#30864674)

    Further proof that there is still valuable, real science within reach of amateurs who do not have multimillion dollar research grants. Congratulations Shay!

  • Re:Slashdotter? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nilbog ( 732352 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @07:46PM (#30865138) Homepage Journal

    Maybe not the same 15 year old, but I bet they're related - both being 15 and all.

  • by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @07:50PM (#30865188)
    No, actually, you're completely and absolutely wrong. This is going to sound trollish, but this telescope cost a fuckload of money and had absolutely nothing to do with the student. The people operating the telescope basically just give out the data to a bunch of schools. The schools then have the students punch in a few commands, the computer goes to work, and a while later the computer says "Hey, this data looks like it might not be garbage, might want to check it out". So then the professionals actually did some further analysis and found that yeah, it was a pulsar.

    I hate every freaking one of these stories that claim "Young person does science usually done by people with advanced degrees!". She punched in some commands, she didn't do science. Christ. Any other 15 year old working their ass off in school to become a physicist or engineer gets no special recognition or help or any assistance doing science or research like this. But one student who just fucking happened to be in the seat when the computer came up with the result gets credit for doing something completely unremarkable.

    She didn't point the telescope, she didn't actually gather any data, she didn't develop the algorythm used by the computer to actually analyze the signal. She read a fucking graph generated by someone else.
    Look at this article from the same source about another kid who did the same thing:
    You can see the plots there. You look at a graph and if you see a blob you report it.

    I mean, think about this for a little bit. Why on earth do people go to college and get degrees in science if it can be done by a 15 year old with exactly zero formal training in the area?

    It probably sounds like I'm belittling these students' achievements. I'm really not. I'm simply pointing out what they actually did. It's the media that in their haste for a story trumps up this unremarkable junk into something amazing.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner