On a day when a nervous Patti Smith served as Bob Dylan's voice in Stockholm, imagine a world where the new Nobel laureate sang three semitones lower.
UCSD Chemistry Nobel laureate Roger Tsien dies. Amongst many other achievements, he is most well known as co-discoverer of Green Fluorescent Protein, which, as well as making headlines with glow-in-the dark rats, initiated a field that revolutionized biology and our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of disease and life itself. More reaction and links from In The Pipeline. [more inside]
Henri Bergson was one of the most celebrated philosophers of the early 20th century, and his very public conflict with Albert Einstein over "the nature of time" was considered the reason that Einstein's 1921 Nobel Prize was NOT awarded specifically for his Theory of Relativity. Ouch.
Svetlana Alexievich is the latest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature: "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time". Alexievich is a Belarusian writer and is unusual among Nobel laureates in that she is primarily a non-fiction writer. Her most famous book is Voices from Chernobyl, and you can read an extract in The Paris Review. You can read more about her books on her website and read excerpts in English. John Lloyd wrote a long review of her book Zinky Boys for the London Review of Books. And you can read an interview with her on the home page of her American publisher, Dalkey Archive.
This is Professor Wangari Maathai. The first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The first Kenyan woman to earn a doctoral degree. An icon of Kenya’s democratic movement who repeatedly put not just her mind but also her body on the line in order to secure a better future for Kenyans and their natural environment. But Maathai’s standing in Kenya is definitely ambiguous. She is beloved by feminists and environmentalists, and tolerated by everyone else... Women are expected to look backwards on guidance on what it means to be “good” – where “good” is primarily defined by men – but not too good because that makes women less interesting to men. This was not Wangari Maathai.
Physics World has reported that "US physicist Val Fitch, who shared the 1980 Nobel Prize for Physics with James Cronin, died on 5 February at the age of 91. Fitch and Cronin were awarded the prize for the discovery in 1964 that subatomic particles called K-mesons violate a fundamental law in physics known as CP symmetry, allowing physicists to make an absolute distinction between matter and antimatter." Fitch's passing was noted in Princeton University News, and an extended obituary appeared in the Washington Post.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for discovering how your brain creates a map of the space surrounding you, and how you navigate your way through a complex environment. [more inside]
Why should Oscar nominees have all the fun? May Britt Moser was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this year (along with her husband, Edvard Moser, and colleague John O’Keefe) for "for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain". Her bio and list of publications can be found here. Designer Matthew Hubble was inspired by the attention paid to movie stars and their clothing to create a custom dress for Britt Moser that combines leather, silk, and beads to illustrate neurons in a very new way.
“We used a mixture of sequins and beads for the cyton, and created the beautiful synapses similarly, but the myelin sheath on the axons we just couldn’t make look beautiful and so decided a splash of artistic license is allowed after all.”[more inside]
Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.—From Patrick Modiano's lecture when receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature [Original French, Swedish and video] which is about cities, old telephone directories but mostly about writing, how to do it and what it's like.
"No one really wants to admit I exist," says co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, James Watson, who after years of shunning over controversial statements is auctioning his 1962 Nobel Prize medal this Thursday to help pay bills and buy some artwork. Online bidding is an option.
"MIT’s students, faculty, and alumni won 80 Nobel Prizes between 1944 and 2013. In that time, MIT football won a total of 80 games." Until this year. This season's MIT football team is undefeated, 8-0.
2014 Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to Patrick Modiano who is a French novelist and memoir writer. This article from 2011 is a good overview over his career and life. He was born in Italy to a Jewish father and a Belgian mother. Much of his writing deals with recent Jewish history such as in the book Dora Bruder. His detective novel Missing Person, which won the Prix Goncourt in 1978, has been called a postmodern mystery novel.
Any list like this will inevitably leave deserving people out, and probably this list is biased toward U.S.–based physicists. It is not intended to be comprehensive or a “top 10 list,” or to be the last word on the topic, but rather to spark a discussion. And most importantly, it is intended to show that the 51-year streak of male physics laureates cannot be blamed on a lack of viable female candidates. So with that out of the way, let’s hope to soon see this tired streak broken by a third—and fourth and fifth—woman accepting the Nobel Prize in Physics.The nobel Prize committee have decided to honour the inventors of the blue light LED with the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics, extending the half a century streak of only having male winners with another year. Yet as Gabriel Popkin's list of worthy female Nobel Prize candidates shows, there's no lack of female contenders.
Novelist Gabriel García Márquez has died at the age of 87. A giant of Latin American literature, he had struggled with lymphatic cancer and likely dementia (previously) in his latter years. To honor his memory, The Paris Review has reposted their interview with García Márquez from 1981, the year before he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Munro is praised by the Swedish Academy as a "master of the contemporary short story." You can read a long interview with her at the Paris Review website and read some of her short fiction at The New Yorker's website: Amundsen, Gravel, Face, Deep-Holes, Free Radicals, Dimension, Wenlock Edge, The View from Castle Rock, Passion, Runaway and The Bear Came Over the Mountain.
Now, a technological advance has made it possible for physicists to test the idea. They plan to build a time crystal, not in the hope that this perpetuum mobile will generate an endless supply of energy (as inventors have striven in vain to do for more than a thousand years) but that it will yield a better theory of time itself.Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek's "somewhat embarassing" idea will be put to the test as scientists try to build time crystals.
A documentary film about Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who saved over a billion people from starvation. (1:06:47) Americans have little knowledge of one of their greatest sons. Why do schoolchildren in China, India, Mexico, and Pakistan know the name and work of Nobel Peace Prize winner [His speech] Norman Borlaug while so few of his countrymen have never heard of him? How did a dirt-poor farm boy from rural Iowa grow up to save a billion people worldwide from starvation and malnutrition and become the father of the Green Revolution? What were the inherited traits and environmental factors that shaped his astonishing journey and led to successes that surprised even him? What can we learn from his life and views that might help the human race survive the next critical century? [more inside]
We introduced UNZ.org before but it's probably worth revisiting for a vein of gold, the Nobel Prize Library (1971), which contains full modern translations of significant works of 20th century literature. For example [more inside]
In the spirit of the Nobel season, Yasha Levine discusses the history of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel as a PR gimmick for laissez-faire economics, and how its existence is an affront to the Nobel legacy.
The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Serge Haroche (France) and David Wineland (US) for discovering ways to measure and manipulate quantum particles, a discovery which many are suggesting may soon allow us to build computers with virtually limitless capabilities. The Nobel press release provides a layman friendly PDF summary of the research and its potential applications, as well as a less layman friendly PDF with additional scientific background information. The press release cites two older Scientific American articles for further reading, and the magazine has made these articles available to read free online for the next 30 days:
Monroe, C. R. and Wineland, D. J. (2008) Quantum Computing with Ions, Scientific American, August.
Yam, P. (1997) Bringing Schrödinger’s Cat to Life, Scientific American, June.
Monroe, C. R. and Wineland, D. J. (2008) Quantum Computing with Ions, Scientific American, August.
Yam, P. (1997) Bringing Schrödinger’s Cat to Life, Scientific American, June.
Mo Yan has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. A Chinese novelist, born as Guan Moye, his pen name means "don't speak." His most famous novel, Red Sorghum: A Novel of China, was turned into an acclaimed film in 1987. Here are some interviews with Mo Yan: Granta, National Endowment for the Humanities and Paper Republic. Speculation was rife in China before the announcement whether Mo Yan would receive it, and the matter was controversial. For people who haven't read any books by Mo Yan, the Swedish Academy recommends Garlic Ballads [NYT]. For more news over the day, keep an eye on The Literary Saloon and The Guardian's liveblog.
One of my favorite blogs happens to be local to me. Eric Berger, the Houston Chronicle's "SciGuy" usually reports on the weather. But he also posts entertaining and serious stuff as well. [more inside]
In 1982, Daniel Shechtman was on sabbatical at Johns Hopkins University studying aluminum-manganese alloys, and discovered that the resulting crystalline patterns of the alloy resulted in five-way symmetry, much like the famed Penrose Tiles. The resulting publication of these "quasicrystals" resulted in scathing ridicule from most of the scientific community, including Linus Pauling saying "There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.", and his research director claiming he had "Brought disgrace" upon their program. However, by 1987 he had managed to grow large enough crystals to be imaged with electron microscopy, verifying his results. His subsequent studies of quasicrystals eventually earned him the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
An esteemed UC Berkeley tradition is to award Nobel prize winners free parking. Every Nobel prize winner who works at the UC Berkeley campus is awarded the "Nobel Laureate Parking Permit," that allows the holder free parking on campus; a precious and scarce thing, not unlike the Nobel Prize. [more inside]
Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer has been awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. His poetry has been translated into more than five dozen languages and is the living poet who has been translated most into English. He received the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2007, and the award page is a pretty extensive source of information. Below the cut I'll include a few of his poems that I've found online, but the best place to start is the poetry section of his website, where you'll also find an interview, video, audio and a list of English translations. Tom Slegh wrote an appreciation of Tranströmer and Mary Karr and Christopher Robinson discuss him briefly on Poetry Fix, and read two of his poems. [more inside]
An American writer hasn't won the Nobel Prize for Literature since 1993 (Toni Morrison). Slate's Alexander Nazaryan tells us why: "The rising generation of writers behind Oates, Roth and DeLillo are dominated by Great Male Narcissists — even the writers who aren’t male (or white)."
In 1973, while working as a young post-doc in Zanvil A. Cohn's laboratory in Rockefeller University, Ralph Steinman described a completely new immune cell within the lymphoid organs of mice (original paper can be read here). Based on it's distinctive shape, with it's many branched projections, he named the cell "dendritic cell" (derived from the Greek word for "tree"). Such began a prolific and illustrious career, devoted to the further understanding of these cells, which transformed the way the world understood how the immune system worked. Yesterday, Dr Steinman was awarded the The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2011 "for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity". Tragically, he had died just three days earlier of pancreatic cancer, and never learned that he was to be awarded science’s top honour. [more inside]
Dissolve my Nobel Prize! Fast! It's 1940. The Nazis have taken Copenhagen. They are literally marching through the streets, and physicist Niels Bohr has just hours, maybe minutes, to make two Nobel Prize medals disappear.
"[H]e goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe." As expected, Philip Roth (bibliography) won the Man Booker International Prize today. Perhaps not unexpectedly, one of the judges quit rather than award it to him. Was she so wrong? Should they give Roth the Nobel Prize already?
for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat
Mario Vargas Llosa wrote poems when he was young. His father famously responded by sending the boy to military school—where he spent two ghastly years, gathering inspiration for his first novel—La Ciudad y Los Perros, published in English as The Time of the Hero. The military burned a thousand copies of the book and Vargas Llosa's infamy was secured.Mario Vargas Llosa, who once ran for president of Peru and once punched Gabriel Garcia Márquez in the face, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, meaning Ladbrokes dodged a bullet. [more inside]
As a reaction towards the financial crisis the Real-World Economics Review will award the Dynamite Prize in Economics to the three economists who contributed most to blowing up the global economy. The Real-World Economic Review is the central organ of the movement for Post-Autistic Economics which is critical about the current mainstream in economics — in particular microeconomics and neoclassical theorists. [more inside]
Surprise, surprise. It's a girl - for the first time. Elinor Ostrom ("for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons") and Oliver E. Williamson ("for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm") have won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2009.
Barack Obama wins Nobel Prize for Peace 2009. Isn't this kind of... soon?
This year's Nobel Laureate in Literature is Romanian born author Herta Müller, who writes in German, as predicted yesterday by M. A. Orthofer of The Complete Review and Literary Saloon. Here's an interview with Herta Müller and a short bio.
A 28-acre plot of unspoiled Sierra foothill forest is bequeathed to the Auburn (CA) Recreation District. The bequeath came with one condition: That the park be named "Nobel Laureate William B. Shockley And His Wife Emmy L. Shockley Memorial Park." [more inside]
Star Stories explains the life and death of stars using a multimedia approach that incorporates images, animation, video and text. From the official website of the Nobel Foundation. Don't miss out on the other cool games . [more inside]
Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech. "The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed."
Fritz Haber's story is the story of the double edged sword of science. He won the Nobel prize in 1918 for his groundbreaking work in breaking the nitrogen cycle for Germany's WWI efforts, but it's been estimated that two out of every five people now living would not have been born if it weren't for artificial fertilizers created using his process. He also spent much of the war developing poison gases; first chlorine (after watching its first use, Haber's wife committed suicide) and later Zyklon B (the cyanide insecticide later used against his fellow Jews in concentration camps). He died alone and in poverty in Switzerland. But the lessons of his life haven't quite been forgotten.
In 1976, a young Bangladeshi economics professor named Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen Bank to implement microcredit — lending small sums to the very poorest members of society. Today, he and his bank share the Nobel Peace prize. Grameen, a profit-making company with social objectives, has lent $5.3bn to 6.4m people. 97% of borrowers are women, as Yunus believes [video] "men will do whatever they could to enjoy for themselves personally [but] women looked at it for the children, for the family and for the future."
Orhan Pamuk has been awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel website has a short audio interview with Orhan Pamuk in English. Here is the AFP article which has a good rundown of his career. And finally, here's an essay he wrote this summer called Who do you write for?
[MediFilter] The 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to the discoverers of RNA interference (RNAi) [Note: Links to original 1998 Nature paper .pdf]. The finding that cells have an intricate mechanism for blocking viral RNA replication quickly spawned a new technology for investigating the role of different genes by allowing scientists to quickly, (relatively) cheaply and easily "knock down" their expression and measure the effects. When Kerry Mullis won in 1993 for the discovery of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), there was talk of whether or not the prize had gone to a technical advance and not a fundamental discovery. It will be interesting to see, in this case, which receives more focus: the discovery of a new technology or of a new cellular mechanism.
Co-winner of the Nobel prize in economics Robert Aumann of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem gave a very interesting interview about how he became interested in economics, math, and the "topology of bagels." How he applied logic from the Talmud to bankruptcy and other economic events was described nicely at Slate here.
The 2005 Nobel Prize for economics goes to Robert J. Aumann and Thomas C. Schelling. Marginal Revolution has a wonderful set of posts that link to various related resources, like a summary of Aumann's work or Schelling's views on global warming.
A young, average intern looking for a research project and an older, oft-ridiculed pathologist from an Australian hospital were scoffed at for a decade for daring to challenge the conventional wisdom that stomach ulcers were caused by stress and diet. It took the intern's self-promotion skills, and a extraordinarily bold move of ingesting a large quantity of the Helicobacter bacteria they believed were the dominant cause of ulcers, giving himself severe gastritis and subsequently curing it with only fairly standard antibiotics, before the medical world started taking notice. Despite the ongoing resistance of an 8 billion dollar industry in over the counter heartburn medication, the two have been finally rewarded with a Nobel Prize for uncovering the easily diagnosed bacterial cause and fairly simple cure of over 90% of peptic ulcers.
Nobel Prize Market - trading is now over; at least we can see if the economics market outperforms the others.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2004: Elfriede Jelinek, probably best known for the story behind Michael Haneke's La Pianiste.
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