Book Review: A Cosmologist Throws Light on a Universe of Bias

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive on 2021-06-03 19:02Z by Steven

Book Review: A Cosmologist Throws Light on a Universe of Bias


Joshua Roebke

Top: Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is an award-winning physicist,⁠ feminist, activist, and the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in the field of theoretical cosmology. Visual: Courtesy Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

In “The Disordered Cosmos,” Chanda Prescod-Weinstein contemplates the exclusionary culture of physics.

EVERY COMMUNITY GUARDS a creation story, a theory of cosmic origins. In much of sub-Saharan West Africa, for the past few thousand years, itinerant storytellers known as griots have communicated these and other tales through song. Cosmologists also intone a theory of cosmic origins, known as the Big Bang, albeit through journal articles and math.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a cosmologist who is adept with both equations and “the keeper of a deeply human impulse” to understand our universe. In her first book, “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred⁠,” Prescod-Weinstein also admits she is a griot, one who knows the music of the cosmos but sings of earthbound concerns. She is an award-winning physicist,⁠ feminist, and activist who is not only, as she says, the first Jewish “queer agender Black woman⁠” to become a theoretical cosmologist, she is the first Black woman ever to earn a Ph.D. in the subject.

Prescod-Weinstein is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and a core faculty member in the department of women’s and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire. She thus enjoys a unique frame of reference from which to appraise science and her fellow scientists. She is an insider whom others nonetheless cast as an outsider, because of her identity, orientation, and the tint of her skin. From the outside, however, she admits a fuller view of her field. She perceives the “structures that were invisible to people,”⁠ and reveals them…

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