Headline, March17, 2014



ONCE a year, on December 10th, Stockholm hosts the dishing out of the Nobel Prizes. And, it is quite a party:

The white-tie award ceremony itself, complete with orchestra, happens in the city's concert hall and is broadcast live on television.

Some 1,300 lucky luminaries then transfer to city hall for a banquet, also broadcast  -a fashion expert even provides a running commentary on the gowns worn by the women. 

Finally,students  at Stockholm University host a less formal but more raucous  after party for the laureates and their guests. For that mercifully, the TV cameras are switched off.

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, a brand-new award, is a conscious effort to sprinkle a similar kind of stardust on to engineering, which has long worried that it is seen as bit of poor relation to more academic science.

At a half-hour ceremony held on March 18th, last year, at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, the prize committee honoured Marc Andreessen, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Robert Kahn and Louis Pouzin:

""All of whom were instrumental in the development of the modern internet"".

The Swedish-style pomp and circumstances  came later, when the Queen hosted the winners at Buckingham Palace.

I can't recall if London's various universities,  ! alas !, honoured any kind of student-run after party!!!

While the prominence of the Nobels makes them excellent publicity for the fields they honour  -chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine, not forgetting the less scientific endeavours of economics, literature and peace  -they miss out large swathes of science.

The result has been a proliferation of similar prizes in other fields, many of which are quite open about their intent to mimic the Nobels.  

All Computer scientists, for instance, aspire to the A.M. Turing Award. The 2012 award, announced in March 2013, went to:
Shafi Goldwasser  and  Silvio Micali, both of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Mathematicians have the Fields Medal, given every four years to particularly brilliant researchers under the age of 40.

They also have the better-remunerated Adel prize  -last year's winner, is Pierre Deligne of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Other awards are more catholic. Japan hosts the Asahi and Kyoto prizes, for instance, which honour outstanding contributions in any area of science, alongside prizes for the arts.

Some of the newest prizes on the block come from  Yuri Milner , a Russian billionaire, who has attempted to upstage the Nobels by offering $3m to each winner, nearly three times what the Nobel Foundation pays.

The fundamental Physics Prize, given by Mr Milner's Foundation, has so far honoured nine people. A similar breakthrough prize in Life Sciences, this time a joint effort between Mr Milner and

Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google), his wife Anne Wojcicki   -who founded 23andMe,  a genetics testing firm-  and Mark Zuckerberg honoured  11 winners and paid them each $3m.

Despite the deep pockets of Mr Milner and his friends, the Nobels still rule the roost when it comes to prestige. But financial muscle is not the only way an award can differentiate itself from the competition.

The satirical  1g Nobel Prize, established in 1991 by an American magazine called the Annals of Improbable Research, has honoured investigation into, among other topics, the spermicidal properties of:

Coca-Cola and the pain relieving effects of vigorous swearing. But there is often a serious point, too: the 1g Nobels aims to celebrate research that that   "first makes people laugh and then makes them think".  

Just two years ago, for instance, an 1g Nobel was won by a group of neuroscientists, who had  put a dead salmon in a brain scanner and showed it some pictures.

They demonstrated something that looked a lot like electrical activity in the fish's brain  -a gentle reminder to their fellow researchers to beware of false positives in the fashionable and tricky field of brain imaging.

But to sum up, the Students ought to understand that the gongs for scientists and engineers are multiplying:

Nobel                 1901/First Year                               Current Prize $ : 1,200,000

Turing                   1966                                                                            250,000

Kyoto                     1985                                                                             27,000

Abel                       2003                                                                        1,000,000

Queen Elizabeth    2013                                                                        1,500,000

Breakthrough          2013                                                                       3,000,000
Prizes in Life

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the World. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

"'The Phenomenon - The Experience "'

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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