Tag Archives: Nobel Prize

DEGRADING STANDARDS IN PUBLISHING

A literary fan and writer Serge Volle has conducted a damning experiment. He sent 50 pages of French author Claude Simon’s 1962 novel ‘The Palace’, set during the Spanish civil war, to 19 French publishers touting it as fresh material to be considered for publication. The submission was rejected by 12 publishers outrighly, while seven never replied despite the fact that Simon won the Nobel prize for literature in 1985.

One editor claimed in a rejection letter that the book’s “endlessly long sentences completely lose the reader”, and that it failed to have a “real plot with well-drawn characters”.

Simon is often identified with the ‘Nouveau Roman’ movement, which explicitly experimented with literary styles. Simon was particularly noted for his wandering prose, with sentences that went on for several pages, a noted feature of his most acclaimed work, 1981’s ‘The Georgics’.

The experiment exemplified degrading standards in publishing, “abandoning literary works that are not easy to read or that will not set sales records”. Paraphrasing Marcel Proust, he added that you must already be “famous to be published”.

 

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Nobel Prizes: USA far ahead in tally


There is no doubt that USA laps up the talent from all over the world. US leads the tally of Nobel prize winners which were introduced in 1901 and Economics prize introduced in 1968. Since then 585 Nobel prizes have been awarded to 922 winners out of which only 49 are women.
Youngest and oldest

Youngest person to receive the Nobel is Malala Yousafzai who received it at the age of 17 years in 2014. Although she belongs to Pakistan, her country may hardly be happy over her winning it. Oldest Nobel laureate is Leonid Hurwicz of US who received the Nobel in 2004 for economics at the age of 90 years.
Countries at the top of list.
USA:

357 total

Chemistry: 73

Economics: 55

Literature: 12

Peace: 22

Physics: 94

Medicine: 101
U.K.

115 total

Chemistry: 29

Economics: 10

Literature: 9

Peace: 9

Physics: 26

Medicine: 32
Germany

82 total

Chemistry: 29

Economics: 8

Literature: 1

Peace: 4

Physics: 23

Medicine: 17
France

57 total

Chemistry: 8

Economics: 2

Literature: 15

Peace: 8

Physics: 13

Medicine: 11
Sweden

33 total

Chemistry: 5

Economics: 2

Literature: 9

Peace: 5

Physics: 4

Medicine: 8
Major areas of research leading to Nobel 

In physics is particle physics and in chemistry is biochemistry. Research in genetics most hot topic and in economics it is micro economics.
Nobel winners of Indian origin 
Ronald Ross: Medicine 1902

Rabindranath Tagore: Literature 1913

C.V.Raman: Physics in 1930

Hargobind Khurana: Medicine in 1968

Mother Teresa: Peace in 1979

Subramanyan Chandrasekhar: Physics in 1983

Amartya Sen: Economics in 1998

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: Chemistry in 2009

Kailash Satyarthi: Peace in 2014

Nobel Prize Controversies 

Nobel Prizes for this year are on. Already the prize for medicine has already been announced to William C. Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura, Youyou Tu on nature based medicines. Prizes in other categories will be announced one by one.

There had been times when Controversies arose over the prizes. Following is the list of some controversial prizes.

  1. Literature prize to Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn in 1970. Solzhenitzyn is well known for highlighting the plight of political prisoners sent to labor camps in Siberia. The communist regime of the then USSR had declared the prize as a provocation and he was not allowed to receive the prize. He received the prize after 4 years after he migrated to USA.

  2. Peace prize to Henry kissinger and Le Duc Tho, in 1973 is considered as the most controversial. Two members resigned from committee in protest

  3. Economics prize to Milton Friedman in 1076 for his work on free markets. His association with Chilean dictator Pinochet irked the protesters.

  4. When Barack Obama received peace prize in 2009. He was less than a year in office. Judges noticed even Obama was not too enthusiastic about it.

  5. Medicine prize to Jules Hoffman, Bruce Beutler, Ralph Steinman in 2011. This prize would have been uncontroversial except for the fact that Steinman had died a few days earlier the prize was announced. Controversial point was that it cannot be given posthumously and commitee made the exception saying they were not aware of his death.

And Nobel Prize for Mahatma Gandhi that never was. There is hardly anyone in the world who doesn’t know his contribution towards non violence. In fact he was the founder of this movement. He was nominated 5 times for the but never won. This again may be due to pressure from the powerful nation. The Nobel committee has since realized the biggest blunder they have committed. His non violence movement has in fact become guiding star for people such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. 

In 1989 when peace prize was given to Dalai lama the chairman of committee paid rich tributes to Gandhi.

A Soccer Ball and C60 Molecule

Carbon, a small atom with atomic weight of 12 amu and atomic number of 6, is the element on which the life on this planet is based. Carbon atom forms 4 single electron bonds of sp3 configuration and hence can combine with 4 different atoms including carbon atoms. Thus it can form giant or macromolecules often found in nature. Some examples are carbohydrates, hydrocarbons, proteins, lipids and so on.

Buckminster Fuller

Carbon as such exists in two allotropic forms namely diamond and graphite with very different physical properties. While diamond is the hardest material and inert towards chemicals, graphite is active, chemically not inert and conducts electricity with ease and has a structure made of hexagonal sheets separated by electron clouds. There sheets can slip over each other making graphite a lubricant. Scientists has been able to separate these 1 atom thick sheets which have extraordinary properties like many times stronger than steel, easily foldable and superconductor of electricity. These sheets has been named Graphene.

Possibilities do not end here. In the interstellar dust, giant molecules of carbon which are very stable and inert have been detected. One of them is C60 molecule. If it was to be superstable and chemically inert, it should have a closed structure. Smalley and Kroto who were awarded Nobel Prize for the discovery looked towards the domes constructed by Buckminster Fuller outlined above. They called this molecule Buckminsterfullerene in his honor. A soccer ball is known as truncated icosahedron which has 60 vertices, 32 faces: 12 of which are pentagonal and 20 hexagonal. Famous architect Buckminster Fuller constructed biosphere structures which are very stable and energy efficient because a sphere has maximum volume but minimum surface area.

Putting the Elements in their Proper Places

Elements are entities of the matter which have different chemical and physical properties. Almost all the elements exist in the form of compounds in which different elements are joined in definite ratios and this ratio is always constant. Water is made up of 2 atoms of hydrogen element and 1 element of oxygen. No matter from where you collect the water, it shall have the same composition.

But notwithstanding the differences, they form groups which are like the siblings. They are similar and dissimilar at the same time meaning that they follow a progression of physical and chemical properties. For example. there are elements which called alkali metals which form hydroxides having high pH solutions in water. Only difference is that pH will be different for hydroxides of different metals.

From the days of alchemy, chemists were fascinated by the elements and trying to group them in such a way that elements closer in nature to one another come in one cluster. It was also observed that by placing the elements in rows and columns, moving along a row, at the end of the row, the next element shall be like the first element of the previous row. They tried to understand why sometimes atoms of different elements have strong affinity for each other whereas other atoms hate each other and have to coerced to react with one another.

On the earth’s surface and subsurface, elements are found in the form of compounds and constitute the minerals. Sand or silica is composed of silicon and oxygen atoms and bauxite is made up from the combination of aluminum, oxygen and hydrogen atoms. The lifetime endeavor of many chemists was divide the elements in groups in such a way that properties of elements adjacent to one another can be predicted by looking at their location. They were trying to place them on the paper with their locations in definite arrangements.

After so much efforts, it was the genius of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, a 19th Century Russian chemist, who came up with arrangement of 63 elements known in his time based on the periodicity of the properties. In placed them in rows called periods and columns called groups and the periodic table of elements was born. The name periodic indicates the periodicity in the properties of the elements. In his time, the concept of atomic structure of atoms was unknown. No one knew the atomic numbers. But in the end when these concepts became popular, the foundation of the periodic table was put on a more firm bases.

Was it not for the genius of the man that he reserved the place in his table for many elements which were undiscovered yet. Despite the many skeptics, he was proved right again. He was influenced by Bohtlingk, a Sanskrit scholar of Russia who was his friend and was preparing the second edition of his book on the Panini who is known for his grammar of Sanskrit, particularly for his formulation of the 3,959 rules of Sanskrit morphology, syntax and semantics in the grammar known as Ashtadhyayi (अष्टाध्यायी Aṣṭādhyāyī, meaning “eight chapters”), the foundational text of the grammatical branch of the Vedanga, the auxiliary scholarly disciplines of Vedic religion, when he gave the prefixes eka, dvi and tri for unknown elements being 1, 2 and 3 places below known element  in the group of elements. For example “ekaboron” was 1 row below and was ultimately identified as Aluminum and so on.

Although the Periodic Table of the Elements was one of the most fruitful ideas to come out of scientific research in the 19th Century, Mendeleev was never awarded a Nobel Prize for this work, although he came within one vote of it in 1906. The reason cited is that one member of the awarding committee argued, rather eloquently, that Mendeleev’s 1869 work had already been widely accepted as a basic part of chemical knowledge, and had already been put forward by the Italian chemist, Stanislao Cannizzaro.

Dmitri Mendeleev died peacefully during a reading of Jules Verne’s Journey to the North Pole, aged 72 on 20 January, 1907. (This was six years after the Nobel Prizes were first awarded).

Since then, eight elements have been discovered and nearly 30 have been made in the laboratory. Mendeleev has the rare distinction of having an element, that with Atomic Number 101 (Mendelevium), named after him. This synthetic element was obtained by Albert Ghiorso, Glenn T Seaborg and co-workers between 1955 and 1958.

Melting of Glaciers: Is the doomsday so near?

This is what Dr.Pachauri said about the IPCC during his Nobel Prize speech.

The IPCC produces key scientific material that is of the highest relevance to policy making, and is agreed word-by-word by all governments, from the most skeptical to the most confident. This difficult process is made possible by the tremendous strength of the underlying scientific and technical material included in the IPCC reports.

The Panel was established in 1988 through a resolution of the UN General Assembly. One of its clauses was significant in having stated, “Noting with concern that the emerging evidence indicates that continued growth in atmospheric concentrations of “greenhouse” gases could produce global warming with an eventual rise in sea levels, the effects of which could be disastrous for mankind if timely steps are not taken at all levels”. This means that almost two decades ago the UN was acutely conscious of the possibility of disaster consequent on climate change through increases in sea levels. Today we know much more, which provides greater substance to that concern.

I think Dr.Pachauri forgot about these qualities when the reports about the melting of Himalayan glaciers during a mere 35 years period were used to boost the claims of environment disaster and imminent dooms day. Is Kalki the purported tenth avatar of Vishnu will be here so soon to deliver the world from misery, sins and hell like situation? He resisted making an apology for months together and is now defending by saying IPCC generally accepts the reports and research papers after peer reviews and it has mistake in this case by overlooking the reviewing by peer.

Whatever good or bad happens in an institution is the responsibility of the person heading it, though he may not be able to go through every report personally. The person has to be ready to face the brickbats graciously if he is eager to lap the bouquets. It is surprising to note that he has been able to garner support from different quarters like prime minister of India and other vested interests in US and Europe. The conclusions of the report were so startling and sweeping as to make it absolutely necessary for through  review of the report by the experts before accepting it.

Nothing happens in nature so suddenly a burst. Time of natural processes runs in millions of years. Even to deposit 1 meter deep layer of soil on the earth may take thousands of years. Nature has its own safety mechanisms to protect it from the wrong doing by external celestial bodies and living things on it. Though Darwin’s theory of evolution has been modified from time to time that the change may not be uniformly gradual after all, that their are burst of extreme activity followed by periods of hiatus but these periods of intense activity are not one the scale of decades but thousands of years.

It is well known fact that drilling of earth for finding hydrocarbons is a very expensive and risky business. It is due to the fact that geologist who delineate the buried strata to give possible clues about the location of hydrocarbons pools can often make mistakes and target can be offset by hundred of meters speaks about our inability to understand the nature’s process. Even calculations based on the rate of burial are not fool proof.

It is an established fact that industrial growth, rich living style are the key factors which consume lot of energy and thus contribute amply to addition of heat, green house gases to the climate. Thus the developed countries of Europe and USA are to be blamed for the mess we are in. Since they have developed themselves and are unhappy about the way other under developed countries are on the path of development. So they now bring out the ploys like global warming and melting of the icebergs on the mountains. The bodies like IPCC are the fronts they use for their propaganda. To make their concerns genuine, they have put up an person from developing country as its president. The affluent nations have devised means like carbon credits to deter the third world countries from developing into industrial field. They will go on doing the damage but distribute it on the whole world by compensating the developing nations by buying their credits of carbon.

Imagine, if the report saying that by2035 all the snow will melt from Himalayan glaciers. In our own life time, there will be floods and India will submerge under water. No body is denying that tinkering with nature results in disasters. But even in India since ancient times, nature is worshiped. Pagan culture, as the westerns call it, is about becoming one with the nature. But if a country  progresses in a lopsided manner without taking into consideration to compensate the damage to nature by using means like provision of CO2 sinks in the form of planting more and more trees, underground storage or fixing by reacting it with minerals underground, the disaster is bound to happen. Everyone wants to make fast buck and throws caution and concerns to winds while setting up the factories and constructing buildings blocking the natural pathway of the sea. No body I think is unaware of the fact what happened in Mumbai floods. These were caused by the reckless construction activity in the already cramped place. The network of channels created by the sea with lots of mangroves are used as the safety mechanisms for prevention of floods. All these channels have been filled up and buildings have been constructed on it making the soil to loose its water absorbing capacity by dividing into isolated underground tanks beneath the buildings. The result is for all to see. Any person with average intelligence can logically understand this, he does not require the lessons from international bodies.

By the way, this year’s winter has been record breaking in many parts of the world. The temperatures have gone beyond the records. Was it an aberration on the part of nature or the nature’s ploy to make us complacent about the global warming.  If we continue to plant trees, they will take care of CO2 by growing faster and in turn providing us with more food, timber and oxygen. The crops with short life cycle are the best candidates for this in contrast to the older trees which does not grow much and need low amounts of CO2 to make their food.