Monday, October 08, 2007

This and That

  • The 2007 Nobel Prize for Physics will be announced tomorrow, Tuesday, October 9, 11:45 a.m. CET (at the earliest), for more info see You're welcome to let me know your guess.

  • The October issue of Discover Magazine is about 'The State of Science in America' and has a very readable essay by Lisa Randall who makes her points well: "More people, both within government and without, need to understand scientific data and the underlying statistics sufficiently well to make informed decisions." After addressing the problem that "American commitments can be unreliable" and "[m]any worthwhile projects are now happening overseas", she nevertheless remains optimistic "Also encouraging is the genuine thirst for knowledge in the public at large [...] Much of science is difficult to understand these days, but many make the effort to bridge the communication gap and teach or learn about new developments."

    Unfortunately, the article is not online available. What however is online available are the illustrations of the issue that were selected in a contest among kids grade 3-8. I especially like the one below by Maya Gouw. Note the guy with the thought bubble 'Can't stop thinking'.

  • Africans have developed social rules to communicate via intentional 'missed calls' on mobile phones, called 'beeping'. They just let the phone ring until the name shows up on the display, then hang up and wait to be called back. Rules for the game include "richer guy pays" or "If you are chasing after a lady, you cannot beep". See: Rules of beeping at SciAm blogs.

  • Quotation of the week (or so):

    "The universe is made of stories, not atoms."


  1. as much as I would like to see it given to someone/group in an applied field, would it make sense to make the award to the Fermilab group for the top? And seeing it will be going offline not to long from now its almost a going away present!

  2. In India it is called a "missed call". E.g., your taxi driver would give you a "missed call" to let you know he's at the entrance of your building.

  3. Still time to add my 5 cents:
    1) A spintronics (GMR) prize for
    Fert and Grunberg, or
    2) a carbon nanotube prize for
    Mildred Dresselhaus (and others?), or
    3) a dark matter prize for Vera Rubin

  4. Ah, I use beeping too. Richer aka "parents" pay :D.

  5. Hi Thomas,

    congratulations for your correct guess :-). My tip was Nakamura, but I guess I can post nevertheless the text I had prepared about him some time...

    Best, Stefan

  6. I had a prepaid phone in the USA for two years (well, without SSN and credit history nobody wanted to give me a contract). One has to pay for incoming calls though. Given the amount of soliciting calls I find this extremely annoying. Also, the beeping wouldn't work, since one can't even be called if one is out of minutes.

  7. Dear Bee,

    The boy who "can't stop thinking" is cute :-)
    And at least, he does not seem to suffer from his special condition!

    Concerning Lisa Randalls comment that Much of science is difficult to understand these days, but many make the effort to bridge the communication gap and teach or learn about new developments, there is good thing about the Nobel Prize for Grünberg and Fert:

    Despite the terrific name, the Giant Magnetoresistance is, actually, quite easy to explain conceptually, since it deals with every-day notions such as magnets and electric currents - the figure on page 4 of the Nobel info sheet conveys nicely the essence of the effect. And via the miniaturisation of hard disks, it brings obvious benefits for everyone, so it's not hard to explain why it is relevant. That's really very positive for the communication of science!

    Best, Stefan

  8. It's correct that they would call that "beeping" since back before everyone had cell phones, they had beepers to let people know to call them. God, that makes me feel really ancient. ;-)


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