Friday, October 7, 2011

Nobel Peace Prize 2011

The big news of the week--

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize is awarded jointly to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work".

Two African and one Middle Eastern women working for peace in challenging regions and times.   Their backgrounds and roles are each different, but their goals are the same. 

One of the best outcomes of the Nobel Peace Prize is the opportunity for all of us, students and teachers, to learn more about the most courageous people on earth.  Right now, news agencies are scrambling to get together bios, video, links, writings on the new Peace Laureates. 

Set your students to finding them!  And for now, reflect on Leymah Gbowee's comment from her phone interview today.  "Truly women have a place."

Nobel Prize for Literature

This was supposed to be the year of the Syrian poet Adonis.  Instead, the committee had a (local) surprise--

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2011 is awarded to Tomas Tranströmer "because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality".

And with that, let's go directly to those images.  Two poems by Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer here

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011

If it's Wednesday, that means it's Chemistry. 

From the Nobel Foundation:

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to Dan Shechtman "for the discovery of quasicrystals".

Quasicrystals.  And--they are?

Something so strange that when new Laureate Shechtman first saw the structure through an electron microscope, he drew three question marks and muttered to himself  "eyn chaya kazo" (Hebrew for "there can be no such creature"). 

In this YouTube video, Shechtman explains how his ten-fold symmetry discovery broke (and broke open) the laws of matter we'd assumed were universal.  Go ahead--he's a great explainer!  And you can forgive him for smiling as he talks about being ridiculed and expelled from a research group for talking about what he'd observed. 

More information about quasicrystals here.  And tantalizing connections between Shechtman's chemistry research and principles of art (including the Golden Ratio) here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nobel Prize in Physics 2011

It's Physics Day in Nobel Week.  This is a biggie.  It's the one Albert Einstein won, after all. 

(Drumroll) And the winners are--

"The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded "for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae" with one half to Saul Perlmutter and the other half jointly to Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess."

Anybody else thinking of the scene from Annie Hall when a young Woody Allen mutters morosely that the universe is expanding, and his distraught mother yells, "What is it your business?  Brooklyn is not expanding!" 

Well, it turns out it's expanding at an even faster rate than we once thought.  Listen to a phone interview in which Adam G. Riess remembers the moment he realized what his data was revealing. (And he gives a classy hat tip to fellow Laureate Einstein.  "Maybe he should be getting the Nobel Prize again!") 

The stars--distant supernovae and otherwise--have stories well worth the exploration.  Read more about Laureates' stellar explorations here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nobel Prize Week

This is it--Fashion Week for Nobel geeks (and I'm proud to be one of them).  This is the week when the entire world press decides to give us primo subject matter for globalizing the curriculum. That's why I wait for it impatiently every year

From the Nobel Foundation:

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was divided, one half jointly to Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann "for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity" and the other half to Ralph M. Steinman "for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity".

Sadly, Ralph M. Steinman, died just a few days ago.  The Nobel Foundation, however, has determined to award the prize posthumously.

In addition to honoring some of the most productive and creative people in the world (and that's quite enough on its own), the Nobel Foundation makes available excellent resources for teaching our students, and ourselves about the Laureates' work.  So you can learn more about immune responses here.

This is teaching science with a global focus.  Teaching the world, indeed.