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Americans Win 2006 Nobel Physics Prize 215

Posted by Zonk
from the u-s-a-u-s-a dept.
Davemania writes "CNN reports that the Nobel Prize in Physics has been award to John C. Mather and George F. Smoot for their contribution to the big-bang Theory." From the article: "Their work was based on measurements done with the help of the NASA-launched COBE satellite in 1989. They were able to observe the universe in its early stages about 380,000 years after it was born. Ripples in the light they detected also helped demonstrate how galaxies came together over time. 'The very detailed observations that the laureates have carried out from the COBE satellite have played a major role in the development of modern cosmology into a precise science,' the academy said in its citation." If you're interested, you can read a rundown on the prize-winning work (pdf) provided by the prize organization.
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Americans Win 2006 Nobel Physics Prize

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  • 4 for 4 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by richdun (672214) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:23PM (#16293049)

    So all 4 Nobel winners this year so far have been Americans. Brain drain?! Bah!

    Of course, the true test will be to see if we can keep it up in a few years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by crossmr (957846)
      having an extreme to one end or the other is no indication of whether or not their population as a whole is suffering a brain drain, elementary statistics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gkhan1 (886823)
        Actually more of a logical issue: you can derive a universal from a particular. Boy, it would be fun if you could....
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kfg (145172) *
      Albert Michaelson, the first American to win a Nobel in the sciences was born German, although educated in the US. His parents came to America when little Albert was two years old to escape the German guild system (which also brought America Martin of guitar fame and Steinway of piano fame. Their experiments in instruments were illegal in Germany, violating guild rules).

      Einstein, of course, was also born German and educated in Germany, Italy and Switzerland. He did his seminal work in Europe, but came to th
    • by pclminion (145572)

      So all 4 Nobel winners this year so far have been Americans. Brain drain?! Bah!

      If you care to READ, you see that the physics research the prize was awarded for was carried out in 1989. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether or not we have a "brain drain" currently.

      It is common for prizes to be awarded 20 to 30 years after the research has been conducted. The medical prize was somewhat more recent (1998) but 8 years is still quite a while. Before spouting about how this disproves ongoing "brain d

    • by NetSettler (460623) * <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:14PM (#16293857) Homepage Journal

      So all 4 Nobel winners this year so far have been Americans. Brain drain?! Bah! Of course, the true test will be to see if we can keep it up in a few years.

      Uh, actually, you need to adjust for relativity. In the frame of reference of the observers giving out this award, we're a couple of decades back. That is, they don't give out nobel prizes for something that happened this year, they give them out for things that have stood for a while and had impact etc.

      Consequently, I think you meant to say: Of course, the true test will be to see if we kept it up for a few years subsequent to 1989. We should already know the answer to that. I'm sure we're still doing good work. But are we keeping pace with the tremendous degree of investment in math and science abroad? I bet the Nobels that are given a decade or two from now will be clear on that. It's a matter of national pride for many countries. But here, we have "No Child Left Behind", which sounds good on paper but often plays out as "No Child Gets Ahead" -- lest it be "unfair" to someone. It's politically unsafe here to suggest that it's worth investing in our high end at the expense of our low end, and that's going to trend badly toward the middle. Other countries are not thus hampered.

      MIT recently opened a research center in Singapore [com.com]. I suspect the next thing we'll hear is that it's headquarters has moved--for convenience. And then finally, that the largely unused Cambridge center is being mothballed as a quaint relic, perhaps turned into a science museum. And perhaps after that protests may ensue, more over lost jobs or unfair treatment than the question of how our nation's leaders sold us out. No one worries about that.

      The problem is that US politics sees everything as one-place predicates. Politicians like education. They like the environment. They like kids. It's easy to like things when you don't have to make hard choices, and all our public dialog is framed about people voting for X or not voting for X. Politicians don't talk about choices, about comparisons, about 2-place predicates that put one thing up against another. No one says "When it came to X vs Y, I chose Y." That alienates voters. Voters want the fictionalized choice that you can have it all, that all choices/votes are independent of one another, and that no choice or policy robs another. They don't want honesty, so politicians don't sell it. And then the policies the voters have elected don't work. We'll spend a billion dollars to keep a few from getting attacked when the same billion would save many more lives if spent on food, health care, jobs, or education.

      I'm not against less intelligent kids. I don't want to hold them back. BUT the more intelligent kids will be making the money that will pay for the welfare, the head start, etc. that the less intelligent ones need. And if push comes to shove, I know where I'd put money to make sure we still have money in the future. Any business person knows it. You invest in the "low-hanging fruit", the "easy mark", the people who are poised to succeed. And no, that doesn't mean the rich kids--this isn't about class. There are smart kids and dumb kids in the same family. There are smart poor kids and dumb rich kids. We need to figure out which ones are going to succeed and invest in them. And if we don't start investing in science, instead of kidding ourselves that investing in Creationism is the same thing, we'll be rightly pushed aside by other countries, who know that our kind of nonsense/nonscience is not what business is hiring. If it hasn't happened already.

      I'm not trying to troll this forum. I think this is on topic since the headline says "Americans win...", so it's clear that some of this story is about who won, about American national pride and implicitly about American national investment in doing it again. And I have strong opinions on this [nhplace.com].

      • by Stalyn (662)
        We need to figure out which ones are going to succeed and invest in them.

        How about we equally invest in everyone and try to encourage a balanced system. There really isn't a test to determine who is going to succeed and who is not. Perhaps some sort of genetic model based on statistics but that would just be another human created institution that would favor a certain class of people.

        Let's just try to build a fair society where everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Blighten (992637)
          Let's just try to build a fair society where everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

          Well, I don't think it's fair that I'm much shorter than the average basketball player. This puts me at a disadvantage to compete for an NBA contract; it is unfair... granted this is a trivial example, however it's obvious that human traits (height, build, beauty, intelligence etc) vary through some distribution. Ignoring that distribution is what "No Child Left Behind" does.. though if it were implemented in a better way,
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Ixne (599904)
            Ensuring that everyone has an equal start sounds like a noble statement, but it contradicts a stratified society. Someone has to be a graveyard gas station attendant, a garbage man etc. I think the misconception of equality is rooted by the phrase, "all men are created equal." The notion of equality referring that phrase refers to is fundamental rights as a citizen (or human).

            Perhaps the problem is more that these jobs do not carry much respect with some people. But that's a problem with the psychologic
          • by Stalyn (662)
            There is a difference between saying "everyone should have access to equal resources" and "everyone is created equal". The former does not imply the latter however the latter may imply the former. I said "everyone should have access to equal resources" which does not imply "everyone is created equal". Rather because of biased social institutions some of those who are "more equal than others" are left behind and some who are "less equal" are promoted.

            We should allow everyone to succeed on their own merits. A
            • You want to define the word "access" in that beautiful-sounding phrase "everyone should have access to equal resources"? Because it seems to me what you're saying, and whether you're talking about a disastrous 'Animal Farm' train-wreck of a system, turns critically on the definition of that word.

              (1) Does everyone having 'access' to equal resources mean everyone gets to use equal resources? Like, everyone gets to go to MIT or Harvard, regardless of their abilities or performance in high-school? Well, this
              • by Stalyn (662)
                #2

                In that case, you're not saying anything different than the OP, not even saying things should be materially different than they are.

                Class is very important in what levels of access a person may have, the same thing with race and gender. To claim there are equal levels of access to resources in our current society is just flat out wrong. The OP was just changing the classes to different categories.

                From OP: "And if push comes to shove, I know where I'd put money to make sure we still have money in the futur
                • Class is very important in what levels of access a person may have, the same thing with race and gender.

                  Yeah? And is this just something "everybody knows," or do you have any actual, you know, facts and statistical evidence to support the proposition? Because it's certainly been my life experience that this is garbage. How much dough your parents had -- which is probably what you mean by 'class' -- certainly changes how you start your life, but it's up to your own efforts (and luck) how you end up, by th
                  • by Stalyn (662)
                    Yeah? And is this just something "everybody knows," or do you have any actual, you know, facts and statistical evidence to support the proposition?

                    There is a wide variety of literature and studies on this subject. I suggest you look into it.

                    As far as the rest of your argument; my overall point which I keep reiterating is that in order to have a more self-actualized society we need a level playing field. There is no way to determine preemptively in the development stage who is going to be a success. Rather w
          • Ignoring that distribution is what "No Child Left Behind" does..

            You're confused about this legislation. It's a big non-leveler. It's primary intent is to force (by threat of withholding Federal funding) states to test all their students yearly in core subjects, e.g. math now, and science coming up in a few years. The tests have to be standardized and state-wide (i.e. no cheating by re-designing the tests to make them easier for some students, or by evaluating your students with some fuzzy warm-feeling 'h
            • by demigod (20497)
              Perhaps a lot of people hate the NCLB because it makes bad schools worse by taking away funding.

              Almost all the schools that are having problems meeting the minimums, in my state, are inner city schools, where the environment outside the classroom has a large impact on the perfomance of the students. I saw a report the other day on one of these schools and 78% of the students arrive at that school without having eaten breakfast, and why do you think this made the news? Because the school was canceling it'

              • NCLB doesn't reduce funding for bad schools itself. It's up to the state how to improve these schools; NCLB just says you have to measure student performance in some objective, state-wide way, and you have to do something about your schools that don't measure up.

                But generally, yes, states take money away from schools that screw up in statewide standardized tests. You ask in puzzlement how this can be helpful, as if a school having screwed up and disserved its kids is some kind of Act of God about which th
        • Let's just try to build a fair society where everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

          Fairness cannot be judged in isolation. Is it fair that when you're in a military campaign, the guy with the skills to win the battle is asked to be the one to risk himself? Why not run the military by having people draw lots? The answer is that it is not fair to the group to have everything be the result of a vote or of some wish against truth that it would be the case that anyone can do anyone else's job. If you'

          • by Stalyn (662)
            The crucial difference between you and me is that I would rather have a society that gives everyone equal resources and let individuals pursue their own goals unhampered by biased social institutions. You on the other hand want to social engineer certain outcomes because you believe they would be better. As if you had any idea what a better society would compose of and who should be more rewarded than others.

            Claiming intelligence should be rewarded more than athletic ability is the same flawed argument as b
            • The crucial difference between you and me...

              I don't know you, so I won't attempt to say what our differences are. Please lay off the ad hominem attacks and stick to the actual issues. I have not said what kind of society I would rather have, I have said what kind of society I think is achievable, and what the consequences of not seeking an achievable society might be.

              Claiming intelligence should be rewarded more than athletic ability

              I didn't claim this. I claimed that athletic ability should n

              • by Stalyn (662)
                I'm not making ad hominem attacks; I was making statement about the position you hold which I inferred from the words you typed.

                I have not said what kind of society I would rather have, I have said what kind of society I think is achievable, and what the consequences of not seeking an achievable society might be.

                Well it seems you rather have a successful society determined by your own metric. I'm not sure what that exactly is though.

                However, those with the skills to succeed should be the ones focused upon.

                S
    • I have two points here:

      First, You have to remember these guys are the product of yester-year's educational system (i.e. they were educated long ago probably from the 50's through 70's). It will be interesting to see what happens 20 years from now when the current generation of students reach maturity. Most students in the US probably spend more classroom time learning about the values of "diversity" and "self-esteem" than they do learning the periodic table or Newton's laws of physics. Its a very diffe
  • by b0r1s (170449) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:24PM (#16293085) Homepage
    Zndrew Fire and Craig Mello won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering a way to turn off the effect of very specific genes by using RNA to interfere with cell function, a technique they expect to be able to use to fight cancer [cancertherapycenter.com].
  • Woo (Score:2, Funny)

    by grub (11606)

    Science++, Superstition--
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:31PM (#16293183)
    Americans winning the Nobel Peace Prize...
    • by Valdrax (32670)
      FYI, we've been the homeland of at least one of the winners 19 out of the 93 years that it's been awarded. That's better than 20%. In fact, 2002 was President Jimmy Carter.

      Read the list. [wikipedia.org]
    • Americans winning the Nobel Peace Prize...

      Americans win it 20% of the time.
    • What a predictable and utterly cheap shot!

      We've already had the sickening sight of Jimmy Carter campaigning for the prize via a campaign of open sedition against the US. In a less-decadent society he'd be booed in the streets and pelted with rotten cabbage.

      The next Nobel Peace Prize presented to an American will probably go to Bill Clinton, for a series of lip-trembling apologies for American exceptionalism.
  • by intnsred (199771) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:32PM (#16293209) Homepage
    Just imagine, winning a Nobel prize for the "big bang" theory.

    Why everyone knows that the world was created in 7 days, not with a big bang -- the "big bang" theory is just scientific hokum. Just ask our president or the millions of Christian fundamentalists who know the truth. :-/
  • by jpellino (202698) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:37PM (#16293285)
    oops - wrong Smoot. My bad.
  • by SeattleGameboy (641456) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:43PM (#16293371) Journal
    Good thing Nobel prize is based out of Sweden. If it was based out of US, I am sure by now the Bush Administration and the Christian Right would have positioned themselves on the Governing Board and the results would be significantly different.

    I can just see the list of this year's Nobel Prize winners, if the Nobel Prize was based in US.

    Nobel Prize in Physics - Henry Morris and John Whitcomb on their ground breaking work The Genesis Flood which proved that earth is only 6000 years old.

    Nobel Prize in Physiology - Michael Behe, who, using irreducible complexity, proved beyond doubt that evolution is just a "theory".

    Nobel Prize in Literature - Ann Coulter Treason, who exposed the greatest perils that free societies face today - Gutless Lying Liberals who will sell your daughters and sisters to Kim Jong Il.

    Nobel Prize in Peace - George Bush, who freed millions of Iraqis from a brutal dictator.

    Nobel Prize in Chemistry - Discontinued.

    • by RexRhino (769423)
      You realize that the GOP election strategy is to harp on a few social wedge issues, like "intelligent design" or "gay marrage", in order to boost their approval with the Christian Right... but then to pretty much ignore this issues when elections are over with? You are confusing political rhetoric with some sort of real scientific agenda, of which the Bush Administration has none.
      • by Number6.2 (71553)

        And...you're 100% sure about this?

        I'll see your sweeping generalization, and open the floor to hearsay and innuendo!

        What about the political apointee that wanted NASA scientists to talk about the "Theory of Relativity" (in the same vein as "the Theory of Evolution").

        What about the muzzling of NOAA information about (*gasp!*) global warming?

        I will grant you: GWB is probably not going down a "naughty" and "nice" list of scientific projects, but with help like he gets, he doesn't have to. As the twig i

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by necro81 (917438)
      Nobel Prize in Peace - George Bush, who freed millions of Iraqis from a brutal dictator.
      You meant it in jest, but he has been nominated [bbc.co.uk]. I shit you not.
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      Nobel Prize in Chemistry - Discontinued

      Or perhaps "Nobel Prize in Chemistry - Hennig Brand, for the discovery of phosphorus, on which the allotrope white phosphorous is based upon, which is useful to light up hum^H^H^H the skies in military situations."
  • If you're interested, you can read a rundown on the prize-winning work (pdf) provided by the prize organization.

    That's still several pages, and while it's all good, there is a more concise description of the COBE observations [xkcd.com] available.
    • by Myself (57572)
      Heh. Good thing I searched in-page before posting the same. You know you can get that on a T-shirt, right? SCIENCE. It works, bitches. [xkcd.com] I adore xkcd. I even showed it to my mom the other day and she got almost half the jokes. Awesome.
  • by cioxx (456323) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:19PM (#16293979) Homepage
    Then, last week, American scientists announced the discovery of radiation patterns in space that may mark the beginning of time itself. Said astrophysicist George Smoot, leader of the research team: "If you're religious, it's like looking at God. The order is so beautiful and the symmetry so beautiful that you think there is some design behind it."

    Whatever caused the rapid expansion of the universe following the Big Bang--the same forces caused tiny ripples. Because if you try to do something too fast, you shake a little. God might be the designer.

    NASA's COBE satellite team discovered the predicted ripples in the cosmic background radiation. George Smoot, the team's leader, called these seeds for future galaxy superclusters "fingerprints from the Maker."


    For science!
    • The Big Bang and God are not incompatible. See God invented Mexican food first, the "Big Bang" was inevitable after that.

    • by koko775 (617640)
      I go to Berkeley and my roommate takes Smoot's class (I take the other professor's Physics section). I heard about this in class. HE WAS MISQUOTED. MISQUOTED MISQUOTED MISQUOTED! Please. Stop misquoting Smoot! It's a source of frustration for him.
      • by cr0sh (43134)
        Can you provide a source to what he actually said? I mean, you say he is being misquoted - I would like to see what he actually said...
    • by Prien715 (251944)
      I got a piece of toast and it had black stripes on it, dating from its creation as toast. Surely those were "marks of the toaster"!

      Therefore, toasters are sentient beings who design toast! For my next trick, I will not only prove that the toaster is sentient, but also lead the Jews out of Egypt!
  • Don't gimme no rundown, I wan't a blueprint.
  • Had Smoot as my prof a couple of years ago as my Physics 7B prof.... Nice guy, but not the best instructor. I'm glad to see that he's a genius at what he does, though.
    • Me too. The sentiment is agreed. I seem to recall the first exam having a non-trivial amount of errata that had to be rather distractingly announced over the duration, including a few order of magnitude type mistakes. It made sanity checking your answer a non-tractable exercise, as one might imagine...just had to have faith in the calculations.
  • Smoot must also be happy because he's finally getting a RESERVED parking space at UC Berkeley - a privilige only for Nobel Lauriates.

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