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posted by on Sunday January 08 2017, @02:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the before-computers-were-just-circuitry dept.

Ars Technica has an article about the new space race movie Hidden Figures which they describe as "A must-see film about using math to overcome adversity and send humans into orbit". The film centers around a mathematician named Katherine Johnson who played a key role in the Mercury and Apollo projects and the challenges she had to overcome.

There is probably nothing that lifts my spirits more than a movie about heroic scientists sending astronauts into space. Apollo 13 did this masterfully, and The Martian gave it a futuristic twist. And now Hidden Figures has revitalized this quintessentially American tale again, with great success, by focusing on the true story of a group of early NASA mathematicians who plotted Project Mercury's vehicle flight paths in the 1950s and 60s.

Hidden Figures is the perfect title for this film, based on Margot Lee Shetterly's exhaustively researched book of the same name. It deals with an aspect of spaceflight that is generally ignored, namely all the calculations that allow us to shoot objects into orbit and bring them back again. But it's also about the people who are typically offscreen in sweeping tales of the white men who ran the space race. What Hidden Figures reveals, for the first time in Hollywood history, is that John Glenn would never have made it to space without the brilliant mathematical insights of a black woman named Katherine Johnson (played with what can only be called regal geekiness by Taraji Henson from Empire and Person of Interest).

Johnson was part of a group of "colored computers" at Langley Research Center in Atlanta, black women mathematicians who were segregated into their own number-crunching group. They worked on NASA's Project Mercury and Apollo 11, and Johnson was just one of several women in the group whose careers made history.

The movie is in theaters now.


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  • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday January 08 2017, @02:56AM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday January 08 2017, @02:56AM (#450924) Homepage Journal

    it is sorta kinda pear-shaped. You can't just assume a spherical distribution of mass, there are land masses and the oceans.

    My cousin works with GPS satellites, his apartment is filled with physics textbooks.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by TheGratefulNet on Sunday January 08 2017, @03:23AM

      by TheGratefulNet (659) on Sunday January 08 2017, @03:23AM (#450929)

      well, the earth also has 4 simultaneous days. don't be educated stupid..

      --
      "It is now safe to switch off your computer."
    • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Sunday January 08 2017, @03:31AM

      by Snotnose (1623) on Sunday January 08 2017, @03:31AM (#450930)

      I'm gonna guess in the 60's and 70's this didn't matter. Women doing math was good enough until the newfangled calculators and computers showed up in the 80s.

      --
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      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:01AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:01AM (#450935)

        She started out that way.

        From 1953 through 1958, Johnson worked as a "computer", doing analysis for topics such as gust alleviation for aircraft. Originally assigned to the West Area Computers section which was supervised by mathematician Dorothy Vaughan, she was reassigned to the Guidance and Control Division of Langley's Flight Research Division.

        Then she became a steely eyed missile woman. The computer becomes the operator.

        From 1958 until she retired in 1986, she worked as an aerospace technologist, moving during her career to the Spacecraft Controls Branch. She calculated the trajectory for the space flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, in 1959. She also calculated the launch window for his 1961 Mercury mission. She plotted backup navigational charts for astronauts in case of electronic failures.[citation needed kept] In 1962, when NASA used electronic computers for the first time to calculate John Glenn's orbit around Earth, officials called on her to verify the computer's numbers because Glenn asked for her personally and refused to fly unless Katherine verified the calculations. Johnson later worked directly with digital computers. Her ability and reputation for accuracy helped to establish confidence in the new technology. She calculated the trajectory for the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.

        (Source [wikipedia.org])

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:58AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:58AM (#450946) Journal

        There were already new fangled calculators and computers available at the time. They just took too long to program.

        As for the women, TFS says

        black women Mathematicians who were segregated

        Which didn't happen.

        That was gratuitously thrown into the story to beat the injustice drum.
        They weren't in the control room, but that doesn't mean they were segregated in any sense of the word.

        --
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        • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:24PM

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:24PM (#451090) Homepage Journal

          free gratuities - everyone love 'em, don't they?

          --
          Abortion is the number one killed of children in the United States.
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by dry on Monday January 09 2017, @01:13AM

          by dry (223) on Monday January 09 2017, @01:13AM (#451263) Journal

          To quote wiki,

          she was reassigned to the Guidance and Control Division of Langley's Flight Research Division. However, Johnson and other African-American women in the computing pool were also identified as "colored computers" and subject to workplace segregation, working, eating and using restrooms apart from their white peers until the colored computing pool was disbanded in 1958.[10]

          which sounds awfully like segregation to me, something that was usual in those days where black people were often segregated.
          Just because you and whoever upvoted you want to revise history doesn't change the facts
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Johnson [wikipedia.org]

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by deadstick on Sunday January 08 2017, @03:35AM

      by deadstick (5110) on Sunday January 08 2017, @03:35AM (#450932)

      True, with the sorta-kinda in italics. Ask your cousin this: If you made a perfect scale model of the Earth the size of a billiard ball, how would it compare with the manufacturing tolerances for billiard balls?

      I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't comment on whether your post is a non sequitur.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:19AM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:19AM (#450940) Homepage

      The technical term is oblate spheroid.

      But are you talking about the earth, or the fat Black women that the Jews are trying to say were behind America's space program?

      Now, now, before you all label me racist and sexist, I will say that I'm not denying the contributions women made in the space and war efforts of America. Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and many other ladies have a few things to say about that. However, what the Hollywood Jews don't realize is that with the election of Trump the diversity fad is on its way out. Which means that, to the layman, the movie is every bit as patronizing as a 90's era Pizza-hut commercial where all the Blacks are speaking in rhyme against a backdrop of New York Hammond organ music.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @07:09AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @07:09AM (#450970)

        Keep that shit on /pol/ where it belongs. We are trying to hve a society here.

      • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @09:20AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @09:20AM (#450980)

        with the election of Trump the diversity fad is on its way out.

        Very close to the stupidest thing every to appear on SoylentNews. Two points:

        Trump's election changes nothing.
        .
        Diversity is only being expanded! Now we are being ask to extend special rights and protections to racists, misogynists, alt-right homophobic homosexuals, and Pence. But you are probably right, this is taking things too far! We should stop with Black female mathematicians.

        • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @02:17PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @02:17PM (#451023)

          Let me guess. The two prominent "alt-right" (one is a libertarian, not alt-right; the other is just a loudmouth troll so probably again not alt-right) homosexuals are homophobic the same way that women who don't toe the feminist line have internalized misogyny.

          I've never believed that government interference is the way forward for LGBT acceptance. LGBT people come in all ideologies. The "gay lifestyle" is a lie. I'm gay, disease-free, and I've never felt any reason why I should adopt the "gay lifestyle" or view AIDS as some normal life stage for a gay man. I'm a big believer in monogamous relationships. Anyway, not to rant.

          There is one thing I want to know though. I wasn't immediately certain from reading Wikipedia so forgive me for being superficial, but Johnson does not appear to be black to me. Does she have significant African ancestry? Is she somehow black? I'm afraid I'm not understanding what race has to do with this.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:28PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:28PM (#451092)

          You're so full of shit, dude. How many diverse cocks have you eaten today?

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:40AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:40AM (#450943)

    But it's also about the people who are typically offscreen in sweeping tales of the white men who ran the space race.

    Not gonna see it; the subject matter is inherently boring to me (guess my race and gender).

    • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:05AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:05AM (#450947)

      > guess my race and gender

      anonymous and coward?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @10:08PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @10:08PM (#451207)

        guess my race and gender

        anonymous and coward?

        Anonymous is not a race, it is a nationality. Unless it is an illegal anonymity. And "coward" is a gender, but exclusively male, and more specifically MRA. Sad Puppy, no space race for you, except in your dreams!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:15AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:15AM (#450949)

      Meatbag with extra chromosomes

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:30AM (#450950)
  • (Score: 2) by Appalbarry on Sunday January 08 2017, @06:09AM

    by Appalbarry (66) on Sunday January 08 2017, @06:09AM (#450954) Journal

    Have to think that there must be some great Russian movies about their space effort.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @12:00PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @12:00PM (#451005)

      I would think that there are some great stories about the Russian space efforts (and their competition with the US), but I'm not sure they made any great movies about it. Most of the movies/documentaries are basically propaganda (not unlike the US movies).

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @06:31AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @06:31AM (#450959)

    ...better known as CoCos

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @06:52AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @06:52AM (#450965)

      Were the computers you were referring to made by Apple? They came in colors. [apple.com]

      • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Sunday January 08 2017, @08:43AM

        by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 08 2017, @08:43AM (#450977)

        I suspect they were thinking of Tandy [wikipedia.org], not Apple.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @12:02PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @12:02PM (#451006)

          Turn on your TV. "CoCo" is a reference to the character played on Empire by the star of this movie, Taraji Henson.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by TGV on Sunday January 08 2017, @08:57AM

    by TGV (2838) on Sunday January 08 2017, @08:57AM (#450978)

    If you read Ars regularly, you could have known the name of the writer of that article. She's always promoting the SJW agenda. Here's a fine example:

    > But the genius of Hidden Figures is that it makes you feel keenly how racism is a series of small insults that pile up every day, little by little, until even a brilliant mathematician is on the verge of going nuts.

    First, "even a brilliant"? Apart from the fact that Annalee cannot mention an oppressed person without adding some extremely positive adjective, making Turing look like some dabbling amateur, mathematicians are not known for their resilience to social pressure. But that's just style. The real problem in that sentence is that it equates racism to "a series of small insults". That phrasing is deliberate and utterly false: not only because racism doesn't follow from that definition (it leaves out "race", to just mention a tiny thing), but because one or two paragraphs above, it says "Johnson [must] race half a mile across the Langley campus every day, just so that she can use the only “colored” restroom for ladies." The film is set during the segregation. That's not a small insult. The use of "small insult" is merely put there to provide proof for fighting "white privilege". And if you think that's not on purpose, think again: this comes from a person who deeply believes that choice of words is of the utmost importance.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @02:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @02:43PM (#451027)

      I don't know if Arse Technica still releases quality articles, but these kind of authors are the reason I never go on their website anymore.

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @01:00AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @01:00AM (#451257)

        I haven't bothered going to Arstechnica since about, oh, 2014 or so when it was revealed that Kyle Orland was the head of a mailing list called "Game Journo Pros." GJP, by Orland's own admission, was inspired by the "Journo List" controversy where it was revealed that journalists from many competing news publications were conspiring with one-another to shape the news in favour of the Obama administration. The purpose of GJP was for tech and video game journalists to collude with one-another, promote people from their indie clique and push their toxic brand of progressive politics down on their readers and into the industry. The people involved in this pushed out the "Gamers Are Dead" articles and so much more--shattering many peoples' already flimsy trust not only in smaller niche journalist outlets but in the wider mainstream media. The mainstream media of course jumped in on the side of the corrupt clique and pushed a volatile political narrative about sexist, racist white males blah blah blah, you get the rest. As a result of all of this, people such as myself have been driven so far to the political right in such a short period of time that it would make your head spin.

        So yeah. Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory! I just wanted to play vidya!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @02:12AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @02:12AM (#451282)

      Jesus christ how did you get a +5 for that drivel?

      First you complain about some minor hyperbole that would only be noticed by the most hypersensitive.
      Why is that only a problem when it comes to positive portrayals of minorities?
      Have you ever once made a similar nitpicky criticism in any other context?

      And then you flip it to complain that the author is underselling something and then impute it to mean something it clearly doesn't.
      If you think having to walk fifteen minutes is not a small insult in the context of racism at the time then you know nothing of all the other indignities black folks suffered from. Like regular police violence, redlining, and as the article said not receiving credit for work that was integral to the program's success.

      All you are doing is shitposting. You are the one with the agenda, not the author. And it doesn't really matter what what author might write, you'd find some molehill to make into a mountain.

      • (Score: 2) by TGV on Monday January 09 2017, @06:47AM

        by TGV (2838) on Monday January 09 2017, @06:47AM (#451345)

        > If you think having to walk fifteen minutes is not a small insult in the context of racism at the time then you know nothing of all the other indignities black folks suffered from.

        I think it's a fucking BIG insult, and beyond that, Anonymous Coward who can't even read properly.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @02:36PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @02:36PM (#451458)

          > I think it's a fucking BIG insult,

          That's because you've never had to suffer worse

          > Anonymous Coward who can't even read properly.

          Nonymous Coward who accuses others of his own failings

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by VLM on Sunday January 08 2017, @12:58PM

    by VLM (445) on Sunday January 08 2017, @12:58PM (#451010)

    Its interesting to get the real story, or more of the real story, from NASA itself

    https://archive.org/search.php?query=nasa+moon+trajectory&sort=date [archive.org]

    I have not seen the movie, not interested in propaganda pieces, but the actual NASA reports about the mathematics of lunar trajectories in the 60s seem to have names that sound very white male anglosaxon or Jewish male. I suppose the movie explains it was all a conspiracy.

    Probably whats going on is some confusion over "make" and labor type arguments. Surely the iconic "Rosie the Riveter" was a woman but she was only involved at the lowest least involved levels of labor, whereas the engineering of a B-17 aircraft was all white men and frankly a more interesting story. The world is full of grunt laborers and none of their stories are very interesting.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by eof on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:11PM

      by eof (5559) on Sunday January 08 2017, @04:11PM (#451059)

      You could read the book the movie is based on and check its references. As for your web check, it has often happened that the public face of efforts were men even when the work was done by others. Another recent fictionalization of this is the Amazon series "Good Girls Revolt". It depicts the behind the scenes research and writing for magazine articles done by women which ended up under the bylines of men. I happen to know a woman who worked under this system back in the fifties.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @10:41PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08 2017, @10:41PM (#451221)

        Men also worked under such a system; the difference is that they didn't think it was a gender issue, just a human issue.

        • (Score: 3, Touché) by eof on Monday January 09 2017, @06:36PM

          by eof (5559) on Monday January 09 2017, @06:36PM (#451557)

          It becomes a gender issue when the only people who get credit are men. That leaves the impression to later generations that women have never done anything and probably can't.

  • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:19PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 08 2017, @05:19PM (#451087) Homepage Journal
    --
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