10/08/2007

Nobody Cares Who I Think Should Get A Nobel

EDIT: Gerhard Ertl won the Prize for Chemsitry this year. Well-deserved on his part, and I'm glad surface chemistry is being recognized this year, but the fact that Somorjai and Whitesides didn't win is, in my professional opinion, 'tarded. Oh well. Like Kyle said, the Nobel is a silly thing anyway.

First off, suck it Bush. Suck it long and suck it hard. I say that a lot, but why this time? Because pioneering work in embryonic stem cell research and its impact on gene therapy was awarded with a Nobel Prize in Medicine today. Bush's veto of the embryonic stem-cell research bill last year and today's Nobel announcement further illustrates the divide between scientific progress and the Bush Administration's policies. While the Nobel was for research on mice, and the ban on human stem cells, the announcement still shows the importance of stem cells in gene research.

Anyway. They're announcing the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday, which means it's time for speculation- one can debate the usefulness of such speculation (ok whatever it's a worthless waste of time), but it sure is fun. I'm not banking on a prize in materials chemistry or organic chemistry, based on the chemistry selection committee, a hodgepodge of p-chemists and biologists with umlauts in their names. However, most of the work I do, and the work of many people who do work on novel materials, is centered around the truly pioneering work of three chemists who, in my opinion (and, after five minutes of discusion with Ψ*Ψ, her opinion as well) are highly deserving of the Nobel Prize. This is meant on no way to predict who the winner will be on Wednesday. I am neither Swedish nor broadly knowledgeable in all areas of chemistry (especially the molecular biology aspects), but go here if you wanna place your bets.

George Whitesides and Ralph Nuzzo. I call Whitesides the world's smartest chromedome. He might object to that, but I have yet to find evidence to the contrary. If they do get the Nobel, it will be for their research on self-assembled monolayers. (That paper, according to Web of Science, has been cited over 2,100 times.) However, Whitesides has been a pioneer in nearly everything he's had his hand in, from his early work on C-H activation in metals to soft lithography to, more recently, multi-ligand interactions in enzymes (well, I thought it was neat). But his work on self-assembled monolayers is Nobel-worthy. It's had a large impact on the miniaturization of electronic devices as well as simply being a simple method for creating ordered monolayers on conductive substrates. Another pioneer in surface chemistry has been Gabor Somorjai, whose work on studying surface metal-metal interactions and metal-organic interactions on the atomic level has also had a huge impact on surface chemistry.

Richard Heck. Heck's work needs no introduction to organic chemists. Most noted for the reaction that bears his name, Heck's work on palladium catalysis preceded pretty much everyone else's at the time. The Suzuki reaction? Heck's work set the stage for that. The Sonogashira reaction? Heck did it first (without the copper). Seeing as both academia and industry have benefitted from palladium-catalyzed organic reactions, Heck certainly deserves a Nobel for this early work that led to some of the most important reactions of the late 20th century. (Metathesis was honored two years ago, which, while important, hasn't had half the impact palladium has.) Plus, Heck's getting up there in age, so they need to get it to him quickly.

So that's what I think. In my professional (?) opinion, neither of them will win the Nobel, and it'll be given to people whose research I don't really care about (I has an idea lets give it to another biologists lol).

32 comments:

Uncle Al said...

Award no prizes for successful performance! They heinously discriminate against the non-successful. Universal opportunity creates pandemic poverty because only workers have money to spend.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation deserves all prizes awarded every year. $100 billion of US domestic resources are force-fed into gasping gullets of social, intellectual, and political catabolism. The end product will fertilize the world.

Anybody who disagrees is empirically unqualified to comment.

Ashutosh said...

Stille is dead. Maybe the committee is waiting till only three of them are left standing, so that there won't be any controversy. It's really a war of attrition.
Unce Al is right. The committee should be equal opportunity awarders. Give the Prize to Jan Schon I say.

Anonymous said...

Didnt heck die in a horrible plane crash in the 90's? If he is dead he is ineligilble to win the prize.

Excimer said...

No, he is very much still alive (as of November 2006, when Snieckus gave a talk and mentioned him being very much still alive). Also, he won an ACS award last year, which pretty much means he was alive last year. But he's pretty old.

Excimer said...

You're thinking of John Stille, who died in a plane crash in 1989.

Excimer said...

ashutosh,

i don't think they care about who's alive so much. they didn't give a metathesis prize to Katz, who is alive and pissy.

Ψ*Ψ said...

I'd really rather see a physicist get our Nobel than another biologist. Biology is teh suck.

hegemon359 said...

Agreed. (Suck it Bush; Whitesides and Heck are awesome; please please please no more biologists!!one!)

Wasn't there talk last year about Tobin Marks?

David Eaton said...

What you and the president do in an oral copulatory fashion is your business, so long as everyone agrees, and there is a pre-chosen code word to stop things if they become uncomfortable...but I agree that Heck would be a good choice. Whitesides, too. Wonder if he will wear that goofy hat with a tuxedo?

And, a thousand times, no more biologists. They need their own goddammmed
prize so they quit sniping ours and medicine's.

Excimer said...

When Bush and I get together, the safety word is "Sheehan."

Dennis said...

Prompted by the comments, I wanted to find out how old Richard Heck was. Wikipedia, apparently, does not have an article for him. I then tried googling and could only find information about some no name assistant professor of philosophy. Google has no chemistry game. : (

Paul said...

Wow...did Stille die in the Sioux City crash?

around the corner and down the hall said...

Paul,

Yes, JS did die in the Sioux City plane crash...

Ashutosh said...

today's physics prize also seems to be well-derserved

Anonymous said...

I just want to clear up one misconception re: Bush and stem cell research. Although you didn't write this in your post, there seems to be a popular misconception that Bush has somehow "banned" stem cell research in the US. He hasn't even prevented stem cell researchers from getting Government funding. Embryonic stem cell research can even get funding. Here are the NIH guidelines: http://stemcells.nih.gov/policy/

Scientists in the US can still experiment with human embryonic stem cells that don't meet those guidelines, they just can't get government money for it.

I know it's popular to describe Bush as some kind of anti-science nut job. You may still feel this way even after reading those guidelines, I just wanted to get all of the facts out there.

Thanks for the blog!

Ψ*Ψ said...

I can honestly say he hasn't done a single thing I agreed with since he took office. January 2009 cannot come soon enough.

Ashutosh said...

I am not sure I can say that. While I hate almost everything about him, considered by itself, he has probably prevented terrorist attacks for six years. On the other hand, he has more than compensated by guaranteeing many more attacks in the future by making the country less secure :(
Oh, and the Indian nuclear deal :D

Ashutosh said...

Also, I agree that to revile only Bush sort of leaves the picture incomplete. It's definitely him, but even more insidious are those ugly little neo-cons.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be an irreconcilable dichotomy in the "I hate Bush" camp. one one hand, he's an idiot who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. One the other hand, he's an evil genius who's trying to take over the world. I don't get it.

Excimer said...

It's not an irreconcilable dichotomy so much as a lack of precision. Bush is an idiot, however, the people that surround him- people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft, Gonzales, etc. are not idiots. Far from it. But they are evil. Bush is the pedestrian face to their madness.

Excimer said...

Actually, I take that back about Gonzales. He's stupid. The rest aren't though.

Kyle Finchsigmate said...

Rice is the only non idiot on your list. Rumsfeld makes me brain hurt with some of the gems of retardidity that he poops out of his mouth and Ashcroft is some sort of stupid voodoo Christian witch doctor, of whom 100% are stupid.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

While it is true that Pres. Bush didn't ban stem cell research, it is apparently difficult enough to keep the gov't-funded cell line research separate from the non-gov't supported cell line research that the ruling effectively forbids anyone actually receiving federal money from doing research on non-approved cell lines. For example, you can't use anything gov't funded for the non-approved cell lines, so that you have to create two sets of infrastructure to do nonapproved stem cell research. This makes the barrier high enough that only private businesses not receiving government funds can work on the research (with the likelihood that any advances they make will be propietary and hence unpublic for a long time). (C+EN had an article on this sometime last year.) Also, since many of the approved cell lines are either unavailiable or contaminated with feeder cells (I think), there aren't a whole lot of cell lines with which to do funded research. So, while Pres. Bush didn't ban stem cell research, he effectively made either unpublic or undone in the US.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous II,

Thanks for the clarification and thanks for not resorting to the "Bush is an idiot" argument. It doesn't really further the debate in my mind. Anyway, I've heard some stuff about adult stem cells being used instead of embryonic stem cells. Does anyone know what the disadvantages are of adults stem cells?

Ψ*Ψ said...

This is very sad. I think it's a record number of comments on CBC, but half of them are about stem cells. :( can't we talk about other things? every time i hear the word "cell" i throw up a little.

Anonymous said...

It is wrong to say that there were no terrorist attack on US- Iraq is supposedly being protected by US!

Excimer said...

Anonymous,

You are so fucking Internet and you don't even know it.

Energy Turtle said...

I just wanted everyone to know that I was responsible for the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th anonymous comments (not the last one). I'll use this name from now on to avoid confusion. There's too many anonymouses.

Ψ*Ψ said...

Thanks, Energy Turtle!
We really don't mind anonymous commenters, but it would be really nice if everyone would at least assume a different name so we can tell who's who.
"Anonymous" is so uncreative, anyway.

David Eaton said...

I don't know whether Bush is 'anti-science' so much as he isn't going to sacrifice religious qualms on the altar of objectivity. I think that lots of politicians are completely happy to do the same sort of science sell-out for one reason or another.

I'll probably alienate everyone here, but I hate them all, and am a modulated libertarian (meaning I don't think everything should be done privately, or that government has no role).

Repub and Dem politicians (in the aggregate- shining counterexamples don't prevail over the trend) equally hate disjoint subsets of individual freedom and want to concentrate power in the hands of elites. One favors the government, and has pretenses of doing good by direct manipulation, and one favors the private sector, and has pretenses of having good come by some economic magic. A pox on both their houses. I look forward to hating someone new in 2009, though.

Oh, and hooray that something p-chem and not bio won the Nobel.

While I do think the Dems are more 'down' with science, I also suspect that it is a convenient way to shut down disagreement. Scientific facts can have a fascist character, in that no one wants to be seen as 'unscientific'- the fact that shitloads of effort are expended in somehow making creationist claptrap into 'intelligent design' is a testimony to the power science wields in public opinion. In the 1920s, people were happy to pick sides and live with it.

But- take any scientific issue- stem cells, genetically modified food, global warming- and dig past the finger pointing and mutual vilification. At the end, science cannot dictate policy. Values have to. But science holds so much sway, and is seen as giving 'the answer' that the science itself gets distorted.

I think it is dangerous to science for scientists to wade into policy formation, while believing just as strongly that they should provide tight and honest analysis of the implications of policies. They ought to do so while remaining dedicated to the facts, and not any political love or hatred.

(sorry to carry on so much. maybe I ought to update my blog instead of stinking yours up...)

Energy Turtle said...

Wow. That was really thought-provoking.

some name here said...

I know you hate talk of stem cells, but there was a question of adult vs. embryonic stem cells asked earlier, ergo: The disadvantage of using adult stem cells is that these cells are more highly differentiated than their embryonic counterparts, so their applications are much more limited. (There is still argument on the reversibility of differentiation.)