Archive for the ‘Nobel Prize’ Tag

Winner of $1.4 million Templeton Prize announced

The winner of the 2009 Templeton Prize has been announced.  According to the NY Times:

Bernard d’Espagnat, 87, a French physicist and philosopher of science, has won the $1.4 million Templeton Prize for his work on the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics, the John Templeton Foundation said Monday in Paris. Noting that the rules governing the behavior of subatomic particles contravene common-sense notions of reality, Dr. d’Espagnat, a professor emeritus at the University of Paris-Sud, coined the term “veiled reality” to describe a world beyond appearances, which science can only glimpse and which he said could be compatible with “higher forms of spirituality.”

ScienceNOW reports that “Over the years, he has developed the idea that the reality revealed by science offers only a ‘veiled’ view of an underlying reality that science cannot access, and that the scientific view must take its place alongside the reality revealed by art, spirituality, and other forms of human inquiry.”

The Templeton Prize (Wikipedia article), established in 1972, is the best known award given out by the Templeton Foundation; it is awarded to a person who “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”  Until 2001 it was formally known as the “Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion” and from 2002-2008 it was called the “Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.”  The monetary award, currently £1,000,000 (ca. $1.4 million U.S.) exceeds the cash that accompanies the Nobel Prizes.

M. d’Espagnat will formally receive the award from the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace on 5 May.

Communist China hopes the “right person” wins Nobel Peace Prize

Officials in the People’s Republic of China have expressed a hope that the “right person” will win the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.  (See my recent blog post on peace.)  “Some of the prizes went against Mr Nobel’s original purpose. We hope the prize should be awarded to the right people,” said a Foreign Ministry official.

Well, that’s very nice of them.  I think that—hey, wait a minute.  Who would the “wrong person” be?  Oh, yeah, pretty much anyone critical of China’s poor human rights record.  They’re still upset in Beijing that the Dalai Lama won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize and are certainly not happy that one front runner this year is Hu Jia, who is currently sitting in a Chinese prison for “inciting subversion of state power” (i.e. criticizing the ruling party).  Mr. Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, is presently under house arrest.

Another favorite of odds-makers is 41-year old self-taught lawyer Gao Zhisheng.  He won a human rights case for a member of Falun Gong and—wouldn’t you know it?—also happens to be occupying a Chinese prison cell right now.

Another strong possibility for the prize is Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai, who has lead the opposition to Robert Mugabe’s terrible rule in that country.  (See my blog post on the economic situation in Zimbabwe under Mugabe’s villainous mismanagement.)

The 2008 Peace Prize winner will be announced at 11:00 am Central European Time this Friday, October 10th.  The prize will formally be given to the winner on December 10th, the anniversay of Alfred Nobel’s death.  Assuming, that is, that he or she is not in jail.

2008 Ig Nobel Prize winners

The winners of the 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes have been announced and the awards ceremony was held yesterday at Harvard. The Ig Nobel Prizes, obviously punning on ignoble and the Nobel Prizes, are given out each year for research that “first make[s] people laugh, and then make[s] them think.” Many of the categories mirror the Nobels: physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature, and peace, but awards are also often given out for accomplishments in the fields of public health, engineering, biology, et cetera.

A full list of this year’s winners is available here, but here are some highlights from this year’s prizes:

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that a professional lap dancer’s ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.

I’m usually most interested in the Ig Nobel Peace Prize, the first of which was given to Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, “for his lifelong efforts to change the meaning of peace as we know it.” Last year it went to The Air Force Wright Laboratory “for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon—the so-called ‘gay bomb’—that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.” (Don’t worry, the presumably non-lethal weapon never got beyond the concept phase.) This year’s peace prize winner?

The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.

Enshrining the dignity of plants in law? Funny, but it doesn’t come close to the most hilarious award citation ever. That distinction, in my view, is that for the 2005 literature prize. That award went to

the Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters—General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others—each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them.

The winners are invited to the awards ceremony to accept their awards in person (last year, no one from Wright Laboratory showed up to claim the “gay bomb” prize, no Nigerians attended either); actual Nobel Prize winners serve as presenters. It used to be traditional for attendees to throw paper airplanes onto the stage, but that was discontinued in 2006 over “security concerns.” Apparently they are worried that al-Qaeda might hijack one of the paper airplanes or something. I guess.

Anyway, the winners of the Nobel Prizes will be announced soon. In the meantime, I’ll close this blog post the same way the Ig Nobel Prize awards ceremony is traditionally concluded: “If you didn’t win a prize—and especially if you did—better luck next year!”