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Nobel Prizes for Physics Awarded to Smart People 140

Posted by chrisd
from the cowboyneal-prize-for-coolness dept.
bobol6 writes "The 2002 Nobel Prize for Physics is out. The $1 Million is split two ways: Riccardo Giacconi gets half for building the first X-Ray telescopes, and Raymond Davis, Jr and Masatoshi Koshiba split the other half. Davis invented the water tank neutrino detector, and Koshiba used a more sophisticated one to discover neutrino oscillation. The original press release is available . News articles can be found at Science Daily and The New York Times. (Free Blah di Blah)"
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Nobel Prizes for Physics Awarded to Smart People

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  • by eggstasy (458692) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @05:31AM (#4415632) Journal
    Thank God. Wouldn't want any dumb people getting a Nobel prize, now would we? :)
  • by jeorgen (84395) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @05:36AM (#4415648)
    Chemistry prize is shared between John Fenn, USA, Koichi Tanaka, Japan an Kurt Wüthich, Switzerland. Prize is awarded primarily for the development of powerful metods for analysing biological macro molecules, such as proteins.

    With these methods researcher can now quickly reveal what proteins are present in a sample.

    It's also possible to visualise proteins in 3D with these methods.

    The methods have revolutionised the development of new drugs and show promise in areas as food qualit control and diagnosing breast cancer and prostate cancer.

    (all according to a Swedish on-line article)

    /jeorgen

  • by Brento (26177) <brentoNO@SPAMbrentozar.com> on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @05:49AM (#4415672) Homepage
    In related news, the Golden Globes continue to be awarded to the opposite end of the academic spectrum, according to industry analysts. "Just look at Jennifer Connelly," said an unnamed source, pointing to this year's winner for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. "Sure, she's easy on the eyes, but she couldn't tell a neutrino from her elbow. And don't even get me started on Sissy Spacek - the woman keeps trying to reserve the periodic table at restaurants."

    Ron Howard has repeatedly gone on record that his work on 'A Beautiful Mind' puts him in the appropriate Smart People category, but that is still in dispute. Judges point to his work in Happy Days as proof.
    • From A Tribute to Jennifer Connelly [pvv.ntnu.no]

      I was very interested in physics when I was younger and I had thought that when I got to college I would major in physics. Yale is quite a rigorous university and I soon realized that I was not going to change the world with my aptitude in physics and that we would be no more enlightened because of my presence. It was on a whole different level from high school physics and although it was fascinating, I struggled with it more than the other kids.

      -W.

      • .... This must be the most advanced, stylish, packed with info fan site I've ever seen....thanks for the bookmark, WillyElectrix
  • google (Score:3, Informative)

    by ObitMan (550793) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @05:49AM (#4415673) Journal
  • Kamiokande (Score:5, Informative)

    by photonic (584757) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @05:59AM (#4415694)
    I believe the Japanese guy that received the prize worked at the Super-Kamiokande detector that damaged half of its photo-multiplyer tubes in a big implosion [slashdot.org].

    Famous quote at the time of the incident: Thank goodness we got our Nobel already cooking [caltech.edu]
  • by kcbrown (7426) <slashdot@sysexperts.com> on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @06:03AM (#4415697)
    It was recently announced that Olympic gold medals are awarded to physically fit people, Baseball Hall of Fame entries are awarded to good baseball players, and the Nebula Award is given to really good science fiction authors.

    People in the entire U.S., but especially the editors at Slashdot, were astounded and amazed by this announcement.

    "I never even suspected" said chrisd, an editor at Slashdot.

    The Dow rose 78 points today, largely in response to this announcement.

    • Except for the olympic medals in small bore rifle shooting and equestrianism.

      Not to disparage the skill and physical effort that goes into these events, but physical fitness per se is a minor advantage at best.
  • by maxwells daemon (105725) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @06:15AM (#4415724)
    The prizes are awarded in various categories, including physics and chemistry:

    PHYSICS
    Arnd Leike of the University of Munich, for demonstrating that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of Exponential Decay. [REFERENCE: "Demonstration of the Exponential Decay Law Using Beer Froth," Arnd Leike, European Journal of Physics, vol. 23, January 2002, pp. 21-26.]

    http://www.improb.com/ig/ig-pastwinners.html#ig2 00 2
    • The best Ig Nobel prize is this: (from everything2.com)

      Keita Sato, President of Takara Co., Dr. Matsumi Suzuki, President of Japan Acoustic Lab, and Dr. Norio Kogure, Executive Director, Kogure Veterinary Hospital, for promoting peace and harmony between the species by inventing Bow-Lingual, a computer-based automatic dog-to-human language translation device.

      I can imagine the output: "HEY HEY HEY! HEY!!!! HEEEEEEY! HEY HEY HEY!!!"
    • I believe the latest was awarded to Australians who studied the properties of belly button lint.
  • by Alien Perspective (171882) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @06:31AM (#4415743)
    Davis built the Homestake experiment, which was a radiochemical experiment to look for solar neutrinos. NOT a water-Cerenkov experiment.

    Kamiokande (Koshiba's experiment)was a water-Cerenkov experiment, however the IMB experiment (another water-Cerenkov experiment, near Cleveland) also saw the neutrinos from supernova 1987A *and* IMB had an atomic clock, so they could get accurate arrival times, which the japanese experiment couldn't.

    Kamiokande confirmed Davis' results, but so did gallium experiments in what was then the USSR and in Italy.

    • Kamiokande (Koshiba's experiment)was a water-Cerenkov experiment, however the IMB experiment (another water-Cerenkov experiment, near Cleveland) also saw the neutrinos from supernova 1987A *and* IMB had an atomic clock, so they could get accurate arrival times, which the japanese experiment couldn't.

      Would that make such a difference? I was at the actual presentation yesterday, and they had registered arrival times at Kamiokande too. Maybe the precision was lame, but since they actually only registered 12 neutrinos from that supernova, it seems a wristwatch would do well enough...

      • You seem to think that someone was watching the experiment and could look at their watch when the neutrinos arrived. Wrong.

        The neutrino events were found on the data tapes some days (or weeks) later. The Kamiokande experiment just had a drifting computer clock to tell the time. No GPS. No NTP. IIRC, they were several minutes off and had no way to correct.

        There are important results that hinge on having the correct time (to within milliseconds) of the neutrino burst (neutrino mass limits, supernova models, etc.), and Kamiokande had to try and match their events with IMBs to try and get the time.

        Frankly, I think IMB and Kamiokande should have gotten the prize for 1987A, but they don't like to split Nobel's too many ways...
        • I do not care how they collect the information. What I learned from the Nobel seminar was that neutrinos are registred quite rarely, but they had found that they suddenly had 12 neutrinos over a short time span.

          I am simply asking what the arrival times are good for. To the unitiated, it does not seem to matter if the precision is by the second rather than the microsecond, and that it doesn't really matter if the computer clock is off by several minutes and has the precision of a wristwatch.

          Just curious...


          • disclaimer: IANA astrophysicist.

            I am simply asking what the arrival times are good for. To the unitiated, it does not seem to matter if the precision is by the second rather than the microsecond, and that it doesn't really matter if the computer clock is off by several minutes and has the precision of a wristwatch.

            This is in the context of the uspernova event, I guess.

            IIRC neutrino bursts from SN tell us about events deep inside the supernova, since EM radiation interacts with the plasma the star is made of, it is absorbed and reemited, and therefore all the efects are slower than c. IIRC the shockwave is about 2 orders of magnitude slower.

            Neutrinos, however, (almost) do not interact, so they leave the star at c. To get the speed of the shockwave, you need to compare the time of nutrino and EM bursts.

            The radius of the sun is about 3 light-seconds. A SN star is typicaly not very much larger, so comparing the time of neutrino-burst with the time of EM radiation pulse needs to be done at seconds, or tens of seconds accuracy, so mircoseconds will not help you, but OTOH minutes will probably hurt you.

            • Neutrinos, however, (almost) do not interact, so they leave the star at c

              Latest results indicate that neutrinos have mass and therefore they have to move below c. As the SN are lightyears away even a small deviation from c could be important. So the question remains: is this effect negligible compared to the time differences you mentioned ?
              • IANAA either, but I guess that if you know how much slower than c they are, *and* you know how much energy they give out when they interact, you can calculate their supposed mass pretty accurately. Now that would be an interesting accomplishment.
    • Kamiokande confirmed Davis' results, but so did gallium experiments in what was then the USSR and in Italy.

      Kamiokande could tell the direction the neutrinos were coming from (the Sun), the radiochemical experiments can't. That's a pretty important piece of the puzzle.
  • Come on? Is there no bitchiness? Can't we at least hear if these guys deserved their Nobels, or did their grad students deserve it instead?

    I would like to hear physicists comment if Physics nominees at least were deserving. From a layman's viewpoint it seems so.
    • Davis and Koshiba (Score:2, Informative)

      by Brett Viren (296)
      For a very long time, Ray Davis stood alone in saying there was a deficit of electron type neutrinos coming from the sun, despite criticisms that his experiment must be wrong.

      Koshiba started Kamiokande which begat Super-Kamiokande, which (along with IMB) confirmed Ray's results but also showed oscillations in atmospheric neutrinos and pushed proton decay lifetime limits further than any other experiment.

      These experiments fundamentally changed our view of neutrinos. So, yes, I think their originators each deserve a Nobel of their own, let alone 1/4 of one.
    • Ok, I'll bite. How come no one involved with SNO was recognized?
      -aiabx
    • It's hard to grouch overly that somebody else deserved the prize when the runners up aren't listed. One thing that sucks, it seems that for one to become a brilliant Nobel winning scientist, it generally takes a lifetime of research (they all look fairly old).
      What's the youngest age of somebody to win a Nobel? It would somewhat suck if you won a million bucks but were too old to fully enjoy it.
      • last year's physics nobel winners were very young...cornell is in his 30's or early 40's and weiman is in his 40's or early 50's. i don't know about the other guy, but i think that weiman was the oldest of the group that won last year.
      • It's hard to grouch overly that somebody else deserved the prize when the runners up aren't listed. One thing that sucks, it seems that for one to become a brilliant Nobel winning scientist, it generally takes a lifetime of research (they all look fairly old).

        Actually, I don't think it takes "a lifetime of research"; rather, the Nobel people wait a while to ensure that a given invention or act truly has had a profound impact. Therefore, Nobels are often awarded for work done a long time ago. For instance, John Nash's Economics prize in 1994 was awarded for work done in the '50s.
  • Go to the source! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lars Arvestad (5049) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @06:53AM (#4415792) Homepage Journal
    I would like to recommend the Nobel prize homepage [nobel.se]. There is a lot of information there. In particular, go check out the "further information" links for the public, where nice presentations of the science is available.

  • by InodoroPereyra (514794) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @07:00AM (#4415809)
    Such a phenomenal genious was A. Einstein that he even influenced the social perception of what physics is. Being himself a theoretician, the prototype of a physicist is some sort of a lunatic doing fancy calcuations on a blackboard. However, voila, most Nobel prizes go to experimentalists. And that is the way it should be. Physics is an experimental science. If you cannot measure it, it ain't. Einstein himself understood this better than anyone, and he based his theories in solid experimental evidence.

    Now let me disgress: how does it feel winning a part of a Nobel prize ? I see it coming: "Our next speaker, Prof. Inodoro Pereyra, 1/8th of the Nobel Prize 2004"

    ;-)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      -- However, voila, most Nobel prizes go to experimentalists. And that is the way it should be. Physics is an experimental science. If you cannot measure it, it ain't.--

      Ahhh!!!! Ye olde "experimentalist" vs."theorist" argument of physical relevance. Perhaps if you're an experimentalist and you can't measure it, you need to devise a way to do so ;? Just because you cannot measure it doesn't mean it ain't. Measurable theories are easier to digest, but A. Einstein was not a big fan of QM, and it certainly *is*; And the depths of it's *is-ness* is theoretically based.

      Not meaning to be a troll -- but experimentalists test theory, and theorists learn from the results of the experimentalist. The two are wed, whether they like it or not (I think they like it!).

      Just my two pence.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Einstein "based his theories in solid experimental evidence."? I was under the impression that experiments done afterwards verified his theories, not the other way around. For example, one of his postulates in special relativity: light travels at constant speed relative to all inertial observers (or something to that effect...) was inspired by the urge to fix the ugliness of Maxwell's equations under certain transformations, not the Michaelson-Morley experiment. I don't remember the source, perhaps some Physics people can verify this? :)
      • by boomka (599257)
        physics person here... :)

        first was Michelson-Morley experiment (Michelson 1881, Morley 1887) with the goal of measuring the drift speed of the ether with respect to the Earth.
        The result, if I remember correctly, could not really be explained by either moving or immobile ether (ether was believed to be a light carrying medium).

        That was when Lorentz came up with his famous Lorentz transformations to explain the results (1892) - I don't know why so many people believe Einstein developed everything in relativity theory alone and from scratch. It was Lorentz of course who came up with the Lorentz transformations, as the name suggests, i.e. he was the first to suggest that the time and the dimensions contract/expand for the moving objects.

        What Einstein essentially did was to take all the largely empirical formulae, and tie them up in one beautiful theory which explained them all. He said that the Lorentz transformations are themselves only a direct result of the fact that the space is not Galilean, it is in fact not space, but space-time, one and unseparable.

        Einstein abolished the idea of ether, postulated that the speed of light in vacuum is constant (natural explanation for M-M experiment). Basicly Einstein managed to explain all the weirdness seen in the experimental results with a beautiful theory that not only answered the questions of 'how' (Lorentz almost did it) but most importantly the question of 'why'.
        Einstein was also the first to trash the electric and magnetic fields and say that they too were one single entity, an electromagnetic field.

        so yes, Einstein based his theory on experimental evidence - most notably, M-M experiment and the fact that the Maxwell laws (confirmed experimentally) didn't want to obey the usual Galilean transformations.

        • Einstein was also the first to trash the electric and magnetic fields and say that they too were one single entity, an electromagnetic field.

          Huh? I don't think so. Maxwell's equations correlate electricity and magnetism and they were derived at least 50 years before relativity (IIRC).

          • yes Maxwell equations were known long before Einstein, but the way the scientists looked at them those days was something like "electric field can generate magnetic field, and magnetic field can generate electric field"

            which is fundamentally different from what Einstein said - electric field _is_ magnetic field.

            Maxwell answered the question of 'how', Einstein answered the question of 'why'.

          • Yes, but ...

            Today we consider them to be one force, E&M.

            And we consider them to be one entity, the EM stress energy tensor, not E and B seperately.

            And we don't look so hard for magnetic charge, because we have written our equations in a manner that doesn't suggest their existence as much.

            Technically speaking, Maxwells equations give a coupled system of PDE's between E and B, while SR gives one nice tensor equation. Go see for your self.
      • It was both. There were experiments done before which couldn't be explained. He made theories, which explained these experiments, and suggested further experiments. These further experiments gave the results that Einstein predicted.
    • I see it coming: "Our next speaker, Prof. Inodoro Pereyra, 1/8th of the Nobel Prize 2004"

      Well, currently the prize can't be split by more than three people.

      However, there are some discussion about changing that. The reason is that more and more often new discoveries come through joint efforts among many groups. The lone theoretician whith a blackboard is not so common any more.

      Swedish Tor
  • I would like to see, in the context of this excerpt [nobel.se] from the Last Will and Testament of Alfred Nobel, a justification for the Nobel Prize for "Economic Sciences", first awarded in 1969.

    • by cperciva (102828) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @09:05AM (#4416401) Homepage
      Simple explanation: There isn't any Nobel Prize in Economics. There is, however, the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel -- but while people call it a Nobel prize, it isn't, and the money for it comes from the Bank of Sweden (not from the Nobel trust).
      • Furthermore, it has been decided once and for all never to introduce any more prices, even if they are only 'in the memory of'.

        That would simply cause too many slashdot trolls.

        Tor
      • You are absolutely correct. However, the Nobel Foundation corruptly obscures this fact and treats the "Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel" just like a real Nobel Prize on its web site. The award is totally politicized, disproportionately awarded to the U of Chicago school, and frequently goes to fringe cranks like Ronald Coase.

        The great economist Gunnar Myrdal, who sat on the board of the Bank of Sweden, argued for the prize's abolition. In 1974 Myrdal shared the award with Freidrich Hayek. Basically, Myrdal felt that if ideologue hacks like Freidman and Hayek won the prize it was meaningless.
    • Rumours say that the Swedish mathematician Gosta Magnus Mittag-Leffler ran away with Alfred Nobel's wife. That's the reason there's no Nobel prize for Maths.

      Other rumours say that Mittag-Leffler was competing for a similar prize with his own wealth. Because Nobel was afraid that Mittag-Leffler would win a Nobel prize in Maths he never introduce a Maths prize.

      The solution to the mystery can be found here [mathforum.org]

  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Wednesday October 09, 2002 @09:10AM (#4416434)
    Congrats to Mr. Giacconi for winning the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research into X-ray emissions in outer space.

    It was his research with sounding rockets, the UHURU satellite and the Einstein satellite that made it possible to study unusual astronomical objects such as black holes and pulsars and allow us to peer much more closely at nebulas and other astronomical objects that have befuddled astronomers before Giacconi's pioneering work. It was his work that made it possible for the development of the NASA Chandra and ESA XMM-Newton X-ray observatory satellites.
  • The Japanese neutrino detector, Kamiokande, was constructed to observe neutron collapse. It failed. It has proved, to a certain extent, that neutron collapse is impossible, or that Koshiba's scientific apparatus is flawed. As a side affect, Koshiba found that neutrinos from space were interfering with his experiment. When the supernova of 1987A lit Koshiba's apparatus up like a Christmas tree, Koshiba found that his mistake even provided an early warning system for supernovae. Through this "oops", "neutrino astronomy" was born. All scientists should be so lucky as to have made a mistake of this magnitude and grandeur. It is truly worthy of the Nobel.

    Sadly, Koshiba made another mistake which destroyed his billion dollar apparatus. [spaceref.com] Another "oops", which so far has not yielded a Nobel.

    Yet!
    • Koshiba found that neutrinos from space were interfering with his experiment.

      And the Higgs Boson and gravity wave interference *really* pissed him off.
    • Re:Serendipity! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > constructed to observe neutron collapse.

      Nonsense. Neutron collapse is an everyday thing. You don't need anywhere near the size of apparatus Kamiokande was to observe it. *Proton* decay, now that's a different story altogether. Detector setups like Kamiokande can be used to try and observer it. And they are.

      Anyway, this is exactly the kind of thing you fully deserve a Nobel for: to see what a lesser mind would interpret as a disturbing influence on your experimental reading, as an interesting result in its own right. That's how most of the truly spectacular results are made. Think Penicillin or the Michelson interferometer.
    • Re:Serendipity! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by habig (12787)
      The Japanese neutrino detector, Kamiokande, was constructed to observe neutron collapse. It failed.

      You mean proton decay. Neutron decay is easy.

      Yes, it didn't see proton decay - but in that, oddly enough, it succeeded in ruling out the prevailing Grand Unified Theory of the day ("SU5"). That's one way how science works, theorists come up with a good idea, experimentalists go looking for it, and often as not it's back to the drawing board for the theorists. And, by the way, there's little doubt that if a proton had decayed, theyd've seen it (decaying protons are also hard to miss). Proton decay at some very low rate is a feature of most GUT's, and lots of people are still actively looking for it.

      However, the same apparatus turned out to be useful at seeing neutrinos (the background in the proton decay search). Koshiba saw how this could be applied to the solar neutrino puzzle that Davis had found, and modified his detector to be sensitive to these low energy neutrinos. This not only confirmed the presence of these suspected solar neutrinos but pointed them back at the Sun, proving their origin. More science at work - following up on other people's odd measurements to see what really might be going on.

      Lastly, Koshiba had little to do with Super-K's tube implosion accident. Which, by the way, happened after 5 years of incredibly successful data taking. Everyone should be so lucky as to make such a "mistake". And by the way, the first water started flowing back into the newly repaired Super-K last week. It will be back on the air come January.
  • Davis's detector was a tank of perchloroethylene. Neutrinos occassionally transmuted chlorine atoms into radioactive argon atoms, which could be swept out by helium sparging and their individual decays detected separately.
  • I keep telling myself that slashdot Karma is better. But, I cannot quite convince myself for some reason.
  • and Sammy Davis Jr.? Wow! Never saw that coming, but my hat's off to the committee.

    And I was rooting for Sherilyn Fenn for Chemistry and David Brenner for Medicine too.

    What a great year!

  • Nobel Prizes for Physics Awarded to Smart People

    Its about time the dumb people of the world stood up and faught against this discrimination. Its 2002, are we are still just giving Nobel Prizes to smart people. We need to send a message that we will no longer stand for this inequality.
  • by bmajik (96670)
    Is this an article from The Onion ?

    Come on. What kind of headline is that ?

  • wish there was some such category. may be i would qualify or who knows, i might get more competition there than in "nobel prize for smart".
  • Finally, people will think there is more in South Dakota than just 3 people, 500 miles of interstate and a 75 mph speed limit!
  • In my best redneck impression...

    Nobel prize my ass. Fur smart people, they sure is dum... The reel deal is the Darwin Award. It stands for the best of thee best, cream o' the crop, britest one on da porch... Ya know what I mean?
  • This is just beautiful. I was starting to run out of ammunition in my "college is for suckers" argument, and now this. Thank you, jeebus.

    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/20021010wo33.htm

    Masatoshi Koshiba, one of the three winners of this year's Nobel Prize in Physics, on Wednesday provided evidence of his earlier claim he was the worst student in his university class by making public a copy of a transcript issued by his alma mater, Tokyo University.

    "I graduated from Tokyo University's science department at the bottom of the class," the 76-year-old professor emeritus of the university said at a press conference at the university Tuesday evening, responding to the news he had won the prize.

  • Nobel Prizes for Physics Awarded to Smart People

    ...Is it just me or does this sound like an article for The Onion? [theonion.com]

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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