Many people have found the Physics Nobel Prize (see here and here) this year quite remarkable, and mostly for positive reasons. It was given to innovative, young researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for work on a material that is remarkable for scientific and engineering reasons alike, and both theoretical and experimental. All good. Others have been a bit concerned about how very soon the prize was given for this work, and in other cases there has been some annoyance about how work on graphene has been attributed (a lot of people seem to be under the impression they discovered graphene, for example, which is not the case).
Well, it seems that there are quite a few strong words being written about the issue at very high levels. I was sent* a Nature News article (by Eugenie Samuel Reich) a day or two ago on the matter Continue reading ‘Nobel Scrutiny’
As I prepare for the second of the Nobel lunches to be held on campus here today, I’m recalling last week’s which was a huge success. I’ll try to share more about that with you later. One of the things that I showed at the end, once the Physicists had talked about the Physics prize, was a lovely video showing just how easy it is to make graphene (the substance that was the subject of that prize) using sticky tape. People seem to find it hard to believe that it can be so simple, and that Nobel prize work can come from something so simple, but that’s the joy of this whole science research enterprise. You never know where the useful surprises will turn up. (You can get the raw material – the graphite flakes – from your local art supply store, by the way, or just break open a pencil…) Enjoy the video: Continue reading ‘Make some Graphene at Home Today’
Here’s a fun thing to get involved with. You can ask John Mather (2006 Physics Nobel Prize) a question on YouTube! Go and submit yours!
What might you ask him? Something about physics, or something else? Religion, art, politics? His favourite colour? If you consider asking a question, and whether you go ahead and ask it or not, feel free to mention in the comments what you might ask.
This is how to proceed (from NASA education)*:
Continue reading ‘Ask a Nobel Laureate’
So I don’t usually talk too much about raw politics here, but when the news broke early this morning about the Peace Prize for Barack Obama, I was sure it was a joke. (Or perhaps I was mishearing given that it was almost 2:00am and I was just coming home from a long night downtown which finished with several hours at the Edison bar.) When I woke up five hours later and heard that he’d accepted, I was a bit sad. I think it is simply a mistake, and a distraction. You give the prize to someone for having done stuff. Plain and simple. He has not really left the starting gate yet. (And frankly, on almost all counts – not just peace – he seems to be still at the starting gate trying to find his way out of that little box.) But it is nine months into his presidency, so good or great things can happen yet. But they have not yet. So this prize looks like a lazy political slap in the slap in the face of the Bush administration, a cheap political statement that backfires and cheapens the prize. Obama would have had a huge amount of respect from me if he’d at least tried to respectfully decline.
So stepping away from direct politics I was trying to think what might be a fun and instructive thing to think about this. How about alternative prizes for this week’s categories? Prizes to work (or authors of the work) that while extremely promising, Continue reading ‘Physics Nobel for String Theory Instead?’
As you already know, I am sure, it is Nobel Prize week. (See posts below for earlier such discussions.) Physiology/medicine has already been announced (see here: Yes, I definitely approve any effort to encourage research work on how aging and related mechanisms work)…. what was I saying again?… Oh, right …and Physics, Chemistry, literature, Peace and Economics will trot along into the spotlight day by day, into next week. All very exciting.
[Update on the Physics prize at bottom of post!]
Now I have to say I don’t have any good ideas or strong feelings for what the Physics prize might be this year. Do you? I’ve a vague feeling that it might be some sort of important experimental effect (you know, like GMR a few years back – perhaps whatever it is that makes my ipod know which way is up all the time) instead of something flashier (but no less important) like inflation (the cosmic kind), which I am sure will have its day one day soon.
By the way, my “Nobel Prize: Who/What/Why” colloquium idea of a few years back has now been converted into a pair of lunches for the College Commons series. Continue reading ‘The Nobel Prize Week is here!’
Don’t forget to be looking out for the other Nobel Prizes announced this week. Monday saw the Physiology or Medicine Prize go to Harald zur Hausen for work on the human papilloma viruses (which cause cervical cancer), and to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for work on the human immunodeficiency virus. Announcement and more details here. Meanwhile, today’s Chemistry Prize was to Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP. Details here.
No, no, no. The Chemistry prize was not for the discovery of a substance that’s just pretty and sparkly-glowy. (Although, you know… maybe that is a good reason on its Continue reading ‘Prize Watch’
The announcement has been made. It’s for spontaneously broken symmetry in particle physics and it is to Nambu (1/2 – “for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics”) and Kobayashi (1/4) and Maskawa (1/4) (- “for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature”). It’s all about what might be better termed “hidden symmetries” in Nature, showing that the world (the structure of fundamental particle physics, specifically) is in fact much simpler if looked at in the right way. It is a powerful technique that does not just propose what the hidden patterns (symmetries) are, but tells you what the consequences of those patterns are in the form of predictions such that physicists can go out and measure those predictions and verify the existence of those symmetries. In some sense, this type of approach is the driving force behind a lot of fundamental particle physics these days – finding the hidden, simpler structure that lurks under the surface.
Here’s the announcement:
Continue reading ‘The 2008 Physics Nobel Prize’