Technology


Nobel Prize Medals

The Nobel Prize is perhaps the most prestigious and well known award and given each year for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economic Sciences. The award for Economic Sciences, established in 1968, is not one of the original prizes established in 1895 through Alfred Nobel’s Will. It is technically called The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, though common called the Nobel Prize in Economics as the process, criteria and award ceremony are done in the same way as the other Nobel Prizes. This prize in Economics has been a source of controversy for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless it is still a Real Nobel Prize just like the others. The announcements for the Nobel Prize are made during October and the ceremony is held in Stockholm, Sweden during December. Each recipient must deliver a Nobel Prize Lecture within six months of the official ceremony to receive the prize money.

The establishment of the Nobel Prize stems from the last will and testament of Alfred Nobel, signed on November 27, 1895 at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris. Alfred Nobel died on December 10, 1896 from a stroke due to a long lasting heart ailment. When the will was read it caused quite a controversy as the majority of his wealth was left to the establishment of “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind,” as the will stipulated, and outlined the five equal parts: (physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace) and the awarding bodies. Alfred Nobel’s fortune he left was over 31 million Swedish Kroner, which In today’s dollars, accounting for inflation, would have been about 265 million dollars. It was a vast fortune at the time, and one of the largest in the world, accrued through Nobel’s many patents and companies. Alfred Nobel’s life as a chemist, engineer and industrialist led to some 355 patents, but is most famously known as the inventor of dynamite. Today the assets are worth almost twice this amount, around 443 million dollars, managed by the Nobel Foundation.

The first Nobel Prizes were not awarded until 1901, some five years after Alfred Nobel’s death. Though Nobel never married and had no children, his extended relatives contested the will and the named prize-awarding bodies initially were reluctant to comply with the will as they were not consulted. It was also criticized by by the King of Sweden at the time, Oscar II, and other Swedish leaders in the belief that the assets could be used to help Sweden rather than dispersing them to the world through a prize. It was complicated by the fact that Alfred Nobel left the assets to executors and awarding bodies for which a foundation had to be created with everybody on board. This in itself was not an easy task, but the Nobel Foundation was eventually founded on June 29, 1900. The following year the first Nobel Prizes were awarded.

Table of Nobel Prize Awardees Data (1986-2016)

There has been some debate about race and gender disparity in the Nobel Laureates, specifically with regards to women and minorities (non-Caucasian), and also religious persuasion. The statistics do indeed look very disparaging when taking the total span of years the original Nobel Prizes have been around (1901 to present), but this should not be a surprise given the society of the 20th century and that social progress for women and minorities only advanced later in the century. So, looking at a 30 year span (a generation) from 1986-2016 is perhaps more indicative of current trends. The data show (no surprise) that Caucasian’s by far lead the pack in winning percentage (80%), followed by Jewish (36%), Asian (18%), Women (14%), Black (5%) and Hispanic (4%). See the tabulated data for a breakdown by award. The only award that is fairly evenly distributed is the Nobel Peace Prize. There are a couple of points here that are relevant:

  1. ) The first is who the nominators are, that is, what is the gender , cultural diversity, and/or racial distribution of those making the nominations for the Nobel Prize. A more balanced distribution could help remedy this problem. Historically (1901-1966) the distribution of nominees looks very much like that of the nominators. Data is only available up to 1966 because the Nobel Foundation has a 50 Year Secrecy Rule that states: “The Committee does not itself announce the names of nominees, neither to the media nor to the candidates themselves. In so far as certain names crop up in the advance speculations as to who will be awarded any given year’s Prize, this is either sheer guesswork or information put out by the person or persons behind the nomination. Information in the Nobel Committee’s nomination database is not made public until after fifty years”.
  2. ) The second point concerns the centers of research themselves, which tend to be in the United States and Europe for the most part, which is mostly Caucasian, and in Asia to some extent. This is a matter of resources and opportunity, and it’s just a fact of the world that places with stable governments, freedom, and equal opportunity afford scientists prosperity in their work. This is the result of geopolitical situations, but with some gender and racial aspects to it as well that can not be ignored.

Nobel Prize Nominators and Nominees (1901-1966). Source: nobelprize.org

With those issues covered, there is also debate over the relevance and adaptation to changing times of the Nobel Prize in today’s world. It is argued that, at least for the fields of science, the approach has changed since the inception of the Nobel Prize. No longer do scientists work in private, toiling away in private for years on theory or experiment to produce great discoveries, but that science is more a community effort now with colleagues cooperating together, hosts of graduate students participating, and laboratories lending their resources for cutting edge experimentation. Although there are a number of Nobel Prize Awarded Organizations, they are all for the Nobel Peace Prize, and this has not been the case with other Nobel Prize awards. There is nothing prohibiting this, in say physics, but it is just never done. There are good arguments that it is time to consider this. A good example is the Nobel Prize in Physics 2017, which was awarded “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves“. What is LIGO, you may ask? The acronym stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, constructed between 1994-2002, until it became operational on August 23, 2002. That is 15 years of operation between 2002-2017, but overall there have been decades of work, theoretically and experimentally, regarding gravitational waves involving hundreds (if not thousands) of scientists. In the end, the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2017 was given to just three people. Some articles published in early October 2017 address this further:

The Atlantic: The Absurdity of the Nobel Prize
Scientific American: It’s Time to Rethink the Nobel Prizes
Slate: The Nobel Prizes Should Reward Science, Not Scientists

The Nobel Foundation Statues state that “In no case may a prize amount be divided between more than three persons.”, but goes on to say, “Each prize-awarding body shall be competent to decide whether the prize it is entitled to award may be conferred upon an institution or association”. From 1901-2017, a total of 27 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to organizations, but all of them have been for the Nobel Peace Prize. So, there you have it, the prize-awarding bodies for the sciences are free to choose an organization for the award, but they never do. The Nobel Foundation is very steeped in its history and tradition, but seemingly very resistant to change, which is why some see it as an antiquated body unwilling to overhauling the Nobel Prizes in keeping up with modern times. Regardless, there is some legality in all this. This is tied to the will of Alfred Nobel and subsequent establishment of the Nobel Foundation, however, some flexibility could be exercised in interpretation of the legal underpinnings.

It is perhaps time for the Nobel Foundation to consider addressing some issues regarding gender and race for the Nobel awards overall, as well and inclusiveness in science with regards to the more collaborative approach of science in modern times. Tradition and historical continuity have their place, but there is something to be said about changing with the times as well. Such an approach does not have to diminish the credibility and prestige of the prizes, but may afford them wider appeal and make them less susceptible to criticism from various opponents. As it stands, it is what it is for now and something to celebrate in the context of which the Nobel Prizes are awarded.

Nobel Prize Facts. Source: nobelprize.org

Facts about the Nobel Prize:

The Nobel Prize is an international award given by the Nobel Foundation in Sweden.
The Nobel Prize consists of a medal, a personal diploma, and a cash award.
The Nobel Prize can not be awarded posthumously.
The Nobel Prize is awarded without consent of the recipient.
The Nobel Prize may be awarded to no more than 3 recipients for each prize.
The Nobel Prize can be awarded to organizations.
The Nobel prizes can not be appealed.
The Nobel Prize votes are usually announced as unanimous. (* see note below)
The Nobel Prize winners are announced in October.
The Nobel Prize recipient is called a Nobel Laureate.

*Note: The Committees seek to achieve unanimity in its selection of Nobel Laureate’s. On the rare occasions when this proves impossible, the selection is decided by a simple majority vote.

The official website for the Nobel Prize, nobelprize.org, is a wealth of information to explore. Another site, nonelpeaceprize.org, is also worth looking at.

Some further links of interest for reference or further reading:

National Geographic: Nobel Prizes 2017:Facts About the Secretive Process and Peculiar Past
Fortune: Why the Nobel Prize Payout is Shrinking
New Republic: What Happened to the Nobel Prize in Literature?
Atlantic: The Political Slant of the Nobel Prize in Economics
Live Science: Nobel Prize in Physics: 1901-Present
New York Times: Alfred Nobel and the Prize That Almost Didn’t Happen
New York Review of Books: Satre on the Nobel Prize
Stats: Evolution of National Nobel Prize Shares in the 20th Century
Forbes: American Leadership in Science, Measured in Nobel Prizes [Infographic]
Business Insider: Here’s a Beautiful Visualization of Nobel Prizes By Country Since 1901
The Guardian: Nobel Peace Prize Winners – The full list
Britannica: Nobel Prize

 

Advertisements

Keep on Trekkin

As I did at the end of 2013 & 2014, so I do again here at the end of 2015 to recount some travel experiences, which I don’t normally write about here. I need not give the whole setup again for the premise of such entries and see my blog from the end of 2013: Travels of Spocklogic. The notables this year (travel blogs I finished or made additions to) include:

feature-Erice2014-lgFeature-Indian_Wedding

Feature - Washington DC-1

Feature-China_2014

Feature-Spocklogics_TravBuddy_Meetups

 

That’s the summary for 2015. Some are carry overs from 2014, but I finished the blogs in 2015, after my last post on travels (see: Travels of Spocklogic II) in December 2014 or earlier if I made additions. As I alluded to in recent entries, I will take a break from this Cogito Ergo blog for a while in 2016. I’ve had 20 years of internet exposure and been blogging for 10 years (see: 20 Years of Internet and Mapping the Internet). I hope to return again with a fresh perspective down the line. There’s plenty to explore in the Cogito Ergo blog archives until then (see the link to: Browse Blog Posts). Best wishes for the New Year 2016! See you in the future…

bones-travels-through-time

Map-cyberspace?

Cyberspace?

If you had to imagine what the Internet looked like, what would come to mind? This seemingly innocent question has given rise to some interesting and occasionally bizarre representations. There are the physical aspects, the infrastructure that makes it possible, the hardware that runs it, the software that interfaces with people and then there are the people themselves. There is a whole other conceptual side to it, which strays into realms of the human mind, and even the name cyberspace congers up visions of some universe within our own, but that is ill defined in physical space. The prefix cyber cyber comes from the Greek word kybernet,  meaning to steer or guide (a helmsman), from which cybernetic  is derived. One can appreciate the irony there and does the internet do the steering or the people using it? Well, this is a big topic and the many questions raised are outside the scope of this blog. When it comes to visualizing the internet I tend to like maps of the world that reflect human behavior or trends in activity. I showed some in a previous blog from June, 2014: The Internet – Yesterday to Today. The maps shown here show the who and how people are connected:

Map-of-internet-users-per-100-people-2012

Map-world-online-by pervcent-2013

Map-world-online-growing-access-2013

Map-of-internet-freedom-2014

Map-of TeleGeography-2015

In viewing some of these maps, I began to wonder what my own WordPress map of visitors compared to some of these. Turns out it actually looks fairly similar for the most part and is most easily compared with the map of Internet users per 100 people and Map of Internet Freedom. Below I show my map of visitors to Cogito Ergo during the period 2012 to 2015, and the associated list of countries with number of visits below that. All total, this blog has had more that ~11,000 views; ~6,000 visitors. On a monthly basis there are an average of 276 views; 163 visitors; 1.78 views per visitor. Currently there are 117 posts, 40 categories and 230 tags. I just record these stats for posterity and reference, and not sure they are of much interest to anyone. The map and countries below only reflect 2012-2015 since I activated the mapping feature, not the total numbers since I started this WordPress blog in 2011 and migrated all my previous years blogs here from another platform. I have actually been writing this blog for just about 10 years now. It may be time to give it a rest for a while and pondering a hiatus in 2016.

wordpress-2015-map

Cogito Ergo WordPress map of views (2012-2015)

WPmap-countries-107

Cogito Ergo list of countries by views (2012-2015)

This idea of Mapping the Internet is likely to expand in the future. It’s not just about the technical details or the purview of science to tell. Science is good at telling us how thing work, but not why they work or what they are good for. For example, we can figure out how the universe works, but not really why it works that way or why it exists. The future will have to go beyond the science and statistics of things and delve deeper into the relationship of man and machine. Mankind has been mapping the physical space on earth and outer space for millennia. The physical space of the human body and inner space of the human mind the brain has been explored for centuries and we are just beginning to map it. This thing called the Internet or cyberspace is as vast and complex I think than even we realize – like the universe itself or the human brain. In this case, however, the creator will be examining his creation. The ultimate Mapping of the Internet may reveal the creator in a new light, hopefully not Man the God, but Man the inquisitive explorer. Ultimately man is a temporary tenant of Planet Earth. Reaching into inner space or cyberspace to see ourselves may someday inspire us to reach for the stars. I like that line from the 2014 film Interstellar:

Man was born on Earth, but he wasn’t meant to die here.

I give some links for Internet Map exploration:

Global Internet Maps

The Internet Map
Geonet
Internet Census 2012
The Opte Project
Ways to Map the Internet
.

20-yrs-internet

I read somewhere once that in the Middle Ages some people believed we are all created from preformed tiny human beings, called homunculus (Latin for “little man”), which grow into ourselves, but the inner homunculus always maintains control. Who is really pulling the strings, eh? I mention this because it is near about 20 years on the internet for me now and it feels a bit like a homunculus, even though I was born long before it became widely available to the public. I can’t really imagine what it’s like to be born into the world with the internet already existing. Sometimes it feels like it has always been there, so ingrained has it become, but I know when I think back in ‘the before time’ I have memories of a world without it. I don’t want to focus on the ‘before time’ in this blog, but say something about 20 years of Internet. Just for fun, I can start by sampling what the internet looked like 20 years ago. Should I be capitalizing it as Internet?

Web-sites-1995

Looks pretty cheesy by standards of today, but back then it was the ‘bees knees’, to use a very old fashioned phrase. In those days most of these companies were using available technology, but the internet was mostly slow and clunky. I bought a 28.8k baud modem in 1995 and squealed my way into cyberspace. At first I only found things like BBS (Bulletin Board System), Usenet or News Groups. These were mostly discussion based arenas for sharing information, though some media could be exchanged as well, but it could be time consuming depending on the size. I did this on the cheap finding numbers to dial up and get online, then once accessing information I found ways to set up TCP/IP and access web pages with a thing called Netscape using various other dial-ups. These free dial-ups came and went with the wind, but I suppose the seeds of a homunculus were planted inside me during those days. You had to be sort of clever and tech inclined to make this shit work back then. The October 1995 issue of FHM (featuring Cindy Crawford on the cover) had an article entitled: “How to log on to the internet – the pleasures and pitfalls of going online”, by Tony Horkins.

dissecting-fhms-seminal-october-1995-feature-how-to-log-on-the-internet-101-body-image-1433515762

Eventually I think I got Compuserve and then AOL (America Online) after that. The rest is history and the homunculus that has grown inside me now seems to have a mind of its own – well, it’s my mind, but still… At least I think it’s still my mind. This brings me to the infamous Clifford Stoll Newsweek article from 1995 entitled “The Internet? Bah!“. Clifford Stoll is much maligned today for getting it wrong, but on reading it in 2015 I think maybe he got it right – for the most part anyway. I feel his vibe now in attitude and it brings us together, but at the same time isolates us from one another. There’s a great passage at the end of the article:

While the Internet beckons brightly, seductively flashing an icon of knowledge-as-power, this nonplace lures us to surrender our time on earth.

At the time Clifford Stoll wrote those words, he had the 20 years experience with the internet already, not as advanced as it is today, but enough to recognize something fundamental in the human experience. My own experience 20 years on after using the internet allows me to recognize that while it has its uses it is just a tool, another in the history of mankind. We should not lose sight of that and while mastery of tools set us apart from the beasts of the wilderness, those tools do not define us. We are all something more than the sum of our parts or the tools we use. There is a danger in being servant to the internet as opposed to allowing the internet to serve you. As Mr. Spock said in the 1968 Star Trek episode “The Ultimate Computer”:

Computers make excellent and efficient servants; but I have no wish to serve under them.

Such reflections are well considered and philosophically sound. Take a step back and think about it, whether it be 20, 10, 5 or 1 year of internet experience…

vintage-social-networking1

Voyager Golden Record

Voyager Golden Record

NASA uploaded selections from the ‘Golden Record‘ to SoundCloud on July 28, 2015.  There are actually two of these Golden Records, one aboard Voyager I which launched on September 5, 1977 and one aboard Voyager II which launched on August 20, 1977. Yes, Voyager II launched first, but Voyager I was launched on a shorter & faster trajectory. Both spacecraft were delivered to space aboard Titan-Centaur expendable rockets. They’ve been traveling for almost 40 years now, and quite far from Earth (see: Where are the Voyagers?), so if the original Golden Records are ever listened to again, it may be by extraterrestrials. The 12 inch Golden Records are actually gold-plated copper containing 116 analog-encoded photographs (Scenes from Earth), greetings in 55 languages (Greetings from Earth), a 12-minute montage of sounds of Earth (Sounds from Earth), and 90 minutes of music (Music from Earth). The record plays at 16 2/3 rpm, which is half the speed of a conventional (at that time) 33 1/3 LP record. The stepped-down spin rate caused some loss in fidelity, but was necessary to fit all the material on the record. This is the playback side and the other side (The Golden Record Cover) contains information on how to play the record, how to construct the images from the recorded signal, drawing of the location of our solar system with respect to 14 pulsars with well defined periods, and a sketch of the hydrogen atom. The record is also a kind of atomic clock, electroplated with uranium-238 so extraterrestrials can figure out the time since it was launched with an understanding of radioactive half-life. The record, mounted on the outside of the spacecraft is expected to last for eons, with only minor damage expected from micro meteorites over time.

Here are the SounCloud recordings NASA has made available for streaming:
Golden Record: Greetings to the Universe
Golden Record: Sounds of Earth

It’s not exactly anything that hasn’t been available to the public before and here is another website that plays the record – The Infinite Voyager: The Golden Record – but the NASA SoundCloud offers the list with titles to skip around if you like and listen to the clips you choose. You can also listen to other sound clips on the NASA SoundCloud site.

What else is on the record?
116 Images of the Voyager Golden Record
Golden Record – Explanation of Recording Cover Diagram

Further reading about the Voyager record:
The Voyager Golden Record
The Voyager Spacecraft Interstellar Record
The Message Voyager I Carries for Alien Civilizations
Who the Hell Can Understand the Voyager Disc’s User Manual?
Voyager I’s ‘Golden Record’ Contains Directions to Earth for Aliens

Voyager record team and documentation:
1.) The team that assembled the Golden Record was as led by Carl Sagan and included Frank Drake, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferris, Jon Lomberg, and Linda Salzman Sagan.
2.) The definitive work about the Voyager record is “Murmurs of Earth” by Executive Director, Carl Sagan, Technical Director, Frank Drake, Creative Director, Ann Druyan, Producer, Timothy Ferris, Designer, Jon Lomberg, and Greetings Organizer, Linda Salzman. Basically, this book is the story behind the creation of the record, and includes a full list of everything on the record. “Murmurs of Earth”, originally published in 1978, was reissued in 1992 by Warner News Media with a CD-ROM that replicates the Voyager record. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print, but may be found through used booksellers.

Further reading about Voyager spacecraft:
Voyager: The Love Story
Is there an edge to the heavens?
Voyager I approaching edge of the solar system, scientists say
Confirmed: Voyager I in Interstellar Space
Interstellar Voyager

The Golden Record's location on Voyager (middle-bottom-left)

The Golden Record’s location on Voyager (middle-bottom-left)

Endnote: It has been pointed out that the chances of an alien civilization finding this probe in the vastness of the cosmos are infinitesimally small, and if it is ever found in the distant future it will likely be by mankind if technological advancement allows us to reach for the stars someday. Arthur C. Clarke, recognizing this possibility, suggested adding a note to the Golden Record, which simply read, “Please leave me alone; let me go to the stars.

kirk-and-spock-travel-back-in-time-to-2014

As I did at the end of 2013, so I do again here at the end of 2014 to recount some travel experiences, which I don’t normally write about here. I need not give the whole setup again for the premise of such entries and see my blog from the end of 2013: Travels of Spocklogic. The notables this year are a couple of blogs I finished and some reviews that may be of interest:

spocklogic_Lyon-France_travel_blog.
spocklogic_Wroclaw-Poland_travel_blog.

spocklogic_Kirin-Hot-Pot_review.spocklogic_Long-Chao-Shou_review.
spocklogic_Ram-Pam-Pam-Pam_review.spocklogic_Raclawice-Panorama_review

That summarizes some travel selections for 2014. I did travel to Italy also in July 2014, and have some links to share for photo collections I put together for a special year in Erice to celebrate a 40th anniversary of the International School of Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy (ISAMS):

Rino: 40 Year Erice Celebrations (2014) – Erice, Italy
2014 Erice Workshop: 30 July – August 5 – Erice, Italy
People (2014) – Erice, Italy
Places (2014)
– Erice, Italy

In addition, I traveled to China again this year in November 2014, but am still working on my travel blog for that, so it will have to wait until my 2015 account of my travels. I will make this type of entry something traditional at years end to cover where I have been and what I have done in travel ways. It’s all rather like the City on the Edge of Forever perhaps…

city_on_the_edge_of_forever-kirk&spock

 

 

drspock

I don’t often write about my travels in this WordPress blog (Cogito Ergo) as I have another site for that (TravBuddy). In this year of 2013, I completed a number of travel blogs on that site that are worth noting and I give the links to them here. Mind you, I don’t know that any of my travel blogs are ever really completed. Each one is like a child I nurture and raise up, but always needs attention in future ways. Anyway, I suppose I list them here for my own reference and also to offer it to others who may be interested in my travels. There is some connection of the blogs, one to another in embedded personal ways, but are also self-contained. Here they are:

Spocklogic_DC_Travel_Blog

.

Spocklogic_Italy_Travel_Blog.

Spocklogic_Switzerland_Travel Blog.

Spocklogic_Germany_Travel Blog.

Spocklogic_Travel_Topics.

Spocklogic_China_Blog.

Some of these blogs have been posted for some years, and I either added to them, made them more complete, and/or formed connections between them. Some of them are entirely new in 2013. They do tell a story in total I suppose and maybe that’s why I decided to make a sort of review of the Travels of Spocklogic here. They were also all the blogs featured on TravBuddy for me this year. My Italy blog (L’Avventura Dell Italia) seems never-ending and I have some more work to do on it, but the majority of important events are there for the most part. The last one in this list, the blog on China, is something I am still working on too, but intend (or hope) to complete it before the end of 2013. I suppose this collection of blogs forms a personal journey of sorts that I tried to form this year regarding my life and relation to travel. When I finish the China blog, maybe I will know what I have been endeavoring to understand and ultimately discover in my life. It’s not a teaser, or cliffhanger, but maybe more a matter of what I will embrace. Sounds enigmatic I suppose, but not really. It’s my personal perspective, the choices I make and what is ultimately best for me in a world of possibilities…

knowyourspock-1

Next Page »