Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nobel Prize Week--Economics

The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded jointly to Peter A. Diamond, Dale T. Mortensen and Christopher A. Pissarides "for their analysis of markets with search frictions." 

"Frictions" sounds as if we're in the realm of physics.  But in an economic context, "frictions" refer to the inefficiencies that slow down a process (think finding a job or a buyer for your house).  Read more about the Laureates' work here.  (The Popular Information links on the site offer very clear and well-written explanations of all the Laureates' research.)

As I've mentioned, all the Laureates we've heard about this week are global heroes.  Use their stories and their work to connect students globally across the curriculum. offers ideas for teaching here.

If you've got your own lesson plan or a strategy for using the Nobel Prize and the Laureates' work in your classroom, let me know.  Email me at higginsteachingatgmaildotcom, and  I'll feature your idea in a future post. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nobel Prize Week--Peace

"For his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China," Liu Xiaobo has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010.  

But chances are he won't be publicly accepting the award and delivering the traditional speech in Oslo.  He's currently serving an eleven-year prison term in China for "inciting subversion of state power."  (Liu Xiaobo has insisted that "Opposition is not equivalent to subversion.")

China's leadership has been described as "livid."  The spokesperson for China's foreign office called the selection "an obscenity."

Liu Xiaobo is the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize, and the third Laureate to be awarded the Peace Prize while incarcerated.  (The others are Carl von Ossietzky and Aung San Suu Kyi.)

Read more about Liu Xiaobo here.  And follow this evolving story with your students.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nobel Prize Week--Literature

Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has won the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."

In his novels, Llosa explores the theme of power in Latin America, especially the effect of political power (and corruption) on the lives of ordinary people.  And he certainly hasn't avoided controversy.  In fact, his first published novel (La ciudad y los perros, published in English as The Time of the Hero) was publicly burned in Lima.   

Llosa's fiction has long been acclaimed, and he's a popular writer both in Spanish and in translation. (Take a look at the congratulations from readers around the world.)

Read more about Llosa here.  And stand by for some well deserved media attention for a great writer.  NPR is already offering commentary on what's bound to be a very popular choice for the Prize.

Update:  Hear Llosa's response to the Prize here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nobel Prize Week--Chemistry

Carbon is Nobel's star this year.

Yesterday Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Prize for Physics for isolating graphene, a one-atom-thick carbon substance with unique properties.  Today the Nobel Prize for Chemistry goes to Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis." 

Or, in simpler terms, "for developing new, more efficient ways of linking carbon atoms together to build the complex molecules that are improving our everyday lives."  (Thanks,!)

Read more about the Laureates here and their accomplishments here.   And stay tuned for Literature!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nobel Prize Week--Physics

What's the strongest, thinnest material?  The best heat conductor?  As good a conductor of electricity as copper?  And is completely transparent?

If you're a physicist, you've known the answer for several years.  But the rest of us learned today about the new wonder material graphene, a form of carbon that's just one atom thick.   The structure of graphene is a lot like chicken wire (see above).  Applications for the new material are still in the planning and testing stage, but its strength and unique properties may revolutionize electronics.  We may be using graphene chips instead of silicon chips one day soon.

Russian physicists Andre Geim and  Konstantin Novoselov have won this year's Nobel Prize in Physics "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene."  

We'll be hearing and learning much more about graphene in the weeks and months ahead.  For now, take a look at the background information about graphene on the Nobel Prize site.

If you have any students who think science is boring and that there isn't anything more to discover, here's the perfect answer.  Even carbon, it seems, still has a few surprises for us!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nobel Prize Week 2010

It's Nobel Prize Week, when the Nobel Foundation will be honoring those leaders who have made a world impact in Medicine, Economics, Chemistry, Literature, Physics, and Peace.

Each day will bring the announcement of a new winner, and the opportunity to introduce students to global heroes and their extraordinary work.  You can follow along on

Here's the schedule

Monday: Medicine
Robert G. Edwards, developer of in vitro fertilization, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.  Learn more about the laureate and his work here.

Tuesday: Physics

Wednesday: Chemistry

Thursday: Literature

Friday: Peace

Monday:  Economic Sciences

Follow along with your class this week, and learn more about the Laureates and their world-class contributions to global life.  Who knows?  You may inspire a future Nobel Laureate.

Update:  Great ideas for discussion about in vitro fertilization at NY Times Learning Network

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Going to the Movies

Well, it's Saturday. Are you thinking about movies, too?

If you're looking for films that combine fun and a fundamentally sound view of our global environment, go to My Wonderful World's blog post Five Favorite Environmentally Conscious Movies.  A great line-up here (think up your own before you look!), and well worth passing along to parents who ask, "what can I do to enrich learning at home?"  Good opportunity for watch-and-discuss.

And while you're on the My Wonderful World site, check out what's ahead for Geography Awareness Week. Mark November 14-20 on your calendar.  More on that later.