Amusing News Aliquots
Oct18

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. The Newscripts Gang pulls out the world’s tiniest violin to play a sad song for Nobel Laureates. Those poor, poor Laureates. [Guardian] Check out the ultimate autograph book for chemists. [Wiley] Researchers show that blood injected from younger mice rejuvenates the brains of older mice. Vampires to everybody: “Told you so.” [iO9] Feeding your goldfish tomatoes will not deepen their gold hue. [Improbable] Amoeba and never-before-seen giant virus found in 17-year-old’s contact lens solution. Let that be a public service announcement to you. [iO9] Why cross the sea in a boat when you can do it in a giant hamster wheel? [Gizmag] Time to bring in the bull semen: Implanted sensors send text messages to farmers announcing when a cow is hot and bothered....

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The Kavli Prizes
Sep27

The Kavli Prizes

Alfred Nobel never got to enjoy the pomp and ceremony associated with the awarding of the prizes that bear his name. Fred Kavli has no intention of making the same mistake. Kavli was a beaming, congenial presence throughout the week in early September when the 2010 Kavli Prizes were awarded in Oslo, Norway. There’s no escaping comparisons between the Nobel Prizes and the Kavli Prizes. First, they are major awards—a bit over $1 million for each Nobel and right at $1 million for each Kavli. Six Nobels are awarded each year; three focus on science. The three Kavli Prizes also honor achievement in the sciences. Both the Nobel and Kavli Prizes are awarded in Scandinavian countries. However, just as it is a mistake for anyone unfamiliar with the two countries to lump Norway and Sweden together as two Scandinavian nations that share a big peninsula in northern Europe, it would be a mistake to think of the Kavli Prizes as modern-day Nobel wannabes. First, the prizes themselves: The terms for Nobel Prizes stipulate that the prizes be for a specific achievement or discovery. That is, they are not supposed to be lifetime achievement awards, although we all know that they sometimes are. As a result, the Nobel committees sometimes strain to make the announcements of the prizes sound like they conform to Nobel’s intentions. There is no such limitation imposed on the Kavli Prizes. As a result, the 2010 prizes celebrate a striking breadth of scientific accomplishment. The prize in neuroscience went to Richard H. Scheller of Genentech, Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University, and James E. Rothman of Yale University “for discovering the molecular basis of neurotransmitter release.” The prize in nanoscience went to Donald M. Eigler of IBM and Nadrian C. Seeman of New York University “for their development of unprecedented methods to control matter on the nanoscale,” although the methods are completely unrelated to one another. The prize in astrophysics is particularly revealing, I think. Kavli trained as a physicist in Norway but made his fortune by founding a company that became one of the world’s largest suppliers of sensors for aeronautic, automotive, and industrial applications. He’s an engineer at heart. The 2010 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics was awarded, not for some deep insight into the structure of the universe, but to three individuals who were instrumental in designing the world’s largest telescopes. Jerry E. Nelson of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Lick Observatory; Raymond N. Wilson of the European Southern Observatory; and Roger Angel of the University of Arizona all started out as physicists who became enamored with telescopes. They developed ingenious...

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