Tag Archives: Alfred Nobel

ONLY FOR BEGINNERS: HOW TO VIEW SCIENCE AND RESEARCH! 

 

What are science, research, and scientists all about? (http://dr-monsrs.net)
What are science, research, and scientists all about?    (http://dr-monsrs.net)

 

Are you a raw beginner?  It is hard for beginners to understand science, research, and scientists, so most just ignore them!  In this dispatch I explain some points so you will be able to understand more on what science and research are all about!

Why is scientific research needed? 

We need to know more about ourselves, our world, and our universe in order to be able to do more (e.g., treat and cure more diseases, rescue everyone from pollution, produce healthier food, make cheaper gasoline, etc.).

How does science differ from engineering? 

Scientists work to discover new knowledge.  They evaluate the truth by observing, measuring, and experimenting.  Engineers work to develop or improve some commercial product (e.g., better batteries, steam-powered autos, more sensitive and safer machines, faster trains, etc.).  Both are very useful to society!

Are inventors the same as scientists? 

Inventors make some new object or device.  Anyone can be an inventor, even you! Some scientists also are inventors (i.e., by making a new attachment for one of their research instruments).  Inventors generally are not scientists (i.e., they do not have graduate degrees or teach at universities).

Why are salaries for scientists so much more than I get? 

The average doctoral biomedical scientist working as an Assistant Professsor at U.S. academic institutions in 2015 received a salary of about $91,000 per year [1].  The average salary for senior biomedical scientists working as a Full Professor was around $152,000 per year [1].  Please note that these are averaged figures that ignore regional locations, science subspecialties, years of employment, etc.  Salary levels for faculty scientists are based primarily their highly specialized expertise, ability to do both teaching and research, and very extensive education taking over 10 years (i.e., after 4 years in a college, they typically spend 3-8 years in graduate school, plus 2-5 more years as a postdoctoral trainee).

Why is modern research so expensive? 

Research to make discoveries of new knowledge requires obtaining accurate results from measurements and experimental tests by salaried research workers (e.g., professional scientists, postdoctoral fellows, technicians).  Most experiments use special supplies, expensive instruments, and special facilities within a laboratory.  Since the experiments in a typical research project last from weeks to years, the total costs are substantial.

Who pays for scientific research?  Do you pay?  

Payment for research expenses primarily comes from 2 separate sources: taxes paid by the public, and business profits in industrial companies.  Yes, you pay for research!

Why is money so important in modern science? 

Everything costs and someone must pay!  No research gets done unless expenses are paid for!  Awards of taxpayer dollars are given by  governmental science agencies to support worthy research studies by scientists.  These awards are termed research grants, and all  scientists at universities, medical schools, and technology institutes compete for them so they can conduct research investigations.

Why do some scientists kill animals for their research project? 

Research on diseases, nutrition, and toxic chemicals often is impossible to conduct  directly on humans, so the needed studies must use experiments with laboratory mice, rats, or other suitable animals.  Since humans are not mice (and only certain humans are rats!), the results from animal-based studies must be extended by clinical researchers onto humans.  Computer models can be used for some research, but those results later must be verified by tests on animals and humans.  Scientists I know feel bad about using animals for their research, but accept that such is necessary to get the needed new knowledge.

Scientists on TV always are either weird or maniacs; why are all scientists like that? 

They are not like that!  The phony Hollywood model for scientists is only aimed to be entertaining!  Unlike in TV and movies, real scientists are strongly individualistic, very dedicated to their research work, want to make important discoveries, like to laugh, and work very hard.  A real scientist might be one of your neighbors (if so, see if you can chat with them or visit their lab)!

Why are scientist so evil (e.g., nuclear bombs, genetically modified organisms (GMO), fraudulent drug studies, hidden poisons, etc.)? 

Your view of scientists confuses what they actually discover from research studies, with what practical outcomes develop later.  The instances that you cite were developed in response to making advances in agriculture, developing new chemicals for specific purposes, producing the needs for warfare, etc.  What you view as evil, other people see as being useful and even good!  Never forget that scientists are people, and they do make mistakes and have some faults.  I join you in damning cheaters who hide or change test results and market new drugs that actually harm patients, hiders of labeling GMO foods, and, commercial vendors of disguised poisons.

Why can’t all research be focused only on making the next really big discovery?  

Research discoveries depend upon scientists who work best as individuals or in small groups.  Forcing all scientists to work only on one super-project and giving them unlimited money for research, is not likely to reach the desired goal because that condition limits freedom of individuals to think, explore, and ask questions.  Those characteristics are basically required in scientific research!  Consider the analogy where everyone is forced to drive a Chevy, and no other cars are permitted on the roads!

I don’t understand the Nobel Prizes!  Wasn’t Nobel a destructive monster? 

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was a scientist in chemistry, and also a builder, businessman, engineer, industrialist, inventor, traveller, and writer.  He made lots of money from inventing dynamite after years of work, and willed his fortune to establish several ongoing big prizes for scientists whose research provided the greatest benefit to all humans (see:  “The 2016 Nobel Prizes in Science are Announced” ).  Dynamite remains very useful for construction, levelling mountains,  and mining.  Regarding your question, you should know that his brother was killed by an unplanned explosion during the development of dynamite, Nobel lived and workedk on several continents, and he wanted to benefit humanity.   His very eventful life is nicely described in 2 illustrated pieces (see: “Alfred Nobel – St. Petersburg, 1842-1863”, and, “Alfred Nobel – His Life and Work” ).

What does science and research mean to me, a raw beginner? 

Please see my earlier article: “What Does Science Matter to Me, an Ordinary Person?” !  You will be surprised to learn that scientific research impacts everything you do and are (e.g., aging, dreams, health, internet, personality, sex, success at sports, travel, your job, etc.).

What does modern science need to produce more important research discoveries? 

In my opinion, modern science needs the addition of more freedom, more curiosity, asking many more questions, longer research grants, better honesty, lots of patience, plus its separation from commercialism, government, and political correctness!

Concluding remarks! 

I hope the above has given you a better understanding about science and research!  Once your curiosity is stimulated, you can have lots of fun looking at many videos, articles, and stories about science on the internet!

 

[1] Zusi, K., and Keener, A.B., for The Scientist, 2015.  “2015 Life Sciences Salary Survey”.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/44275/title/2015-Life-Sciences-Salary-Survey/  .

 

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THE 2014 NOBEL PRIZES IN SCIENCE ARE ANNOUNCED!

Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800's Taken by Gösta Florman.  Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .
Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800’s.  Recorded  by Gösta Florman. Common domain image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg) .

The Nobel Institute has just announced the awardees of this year’s Nobel Prizes in science.  As always, the scientists selected are unquestionably outstanding researchers and contributors to the progress of science.  The Nobel Prize [1] and the Kavli Prize [2] are the very highest honor any scientist can earn.

In this article, I will first present a short introduction to the Nobel Prizes in science, and then I will very briefly summarize the research work of the new 2014 honorees.  For each topic I also will offer some good resources where more information can be found on the internet. 

[1]  Nobel Prizes, 2014.  Nobel Prize facts.  Available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/ .

[2]  The Kavli Prize, 2014.  The Kavli Prize – Science prizes for the future.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.kavliprize.org/about .

The Nobel Prizes in Science

Alfred Nobel (1833 – 1896) is famed as the inventor of dynamite and other explosives, and as a very successful industrialist.  Surprisingly, this Swede had very limited formal schooling.  At his death, he held over 350 patents.  Nobel left much of his substantial fortune to establish the honorific prizes that bear his name; his will directed that the awards in science should be for “those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”.  The first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901. 

At present, separate Prizes are devoted to all of the 3 major branches of science, and also to literature, economic sciences, and peace.  The selection of honorees (Nobel Laureates) is administered by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences,  The Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute (Norway), and the Nobel Foundation.  The Nobel Prizes in science are presented by the royal ruler of Sweden during the large celebration of “Nobel Week” in December; each new Laureate gives a Nobel Lecture and receives a Nobel Medal, a Nobel Diploma, and a document stating their financial award.  As many Laureates have said, receiving a Nobel Prize is a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience; nevertheless, a few scientists actually have won a second Nobel Prize. 

The official history of Alfred Nobel is presented at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/alfred_nobel/ .  General information about the Nobel Prizes, Nobel Prize Week, Nobel Laureates, and the topics for recent awards are presented at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/ .  A listing of all the awardees for each Prize is given at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/ .  Many good materials for science education and modern videos about the Nobel Prize awardees are available on that site.   First, you are required to select one item from very extensive lists of all the yearly Nobel Prizes and Laureates , and then to select one year; lastly, indicate whether you want to see a Nobel Lecture, an  Interview with a specific Laureate (highly recommended!), or a Commentary. 

2014 Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physcs is awarded jointly to 3 professors : Isamu Akasaki, Ph.D. (Meijo University and Nagoya University, Japan), Hiroshi Amano, Ph.D. (Nagoya University, Japan), and, Shuji Nakamura, Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA).  Their determined and detailed research investigations over several decades finally led to several successful ways to create emission of blue light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs).  That invention then led to the long-sought development of LEDs that emit white light.  There now is worldwide installation of commercial white LEDs as replacements for standard light bulbs, since these new LEDs are brighter, less costly, longer lasting, non-polluting, and  much more efficient.  These practical improvements for everyday life came about through the classical sequence of basic research, applied research, and engineering developments, and, will benefit all humans. 

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics is available on the internet at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2014/press.html , and at:
http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-for-blue-led-s-that-revolutionized-lighting-1.16092 .  

2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded jointly to 3 academic scientists: Eric Betzig, Ph.D. (Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia, USA), Stefan W. Hell, Ph.D. (Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, and  German Cancer Research Center, Hdeidelberg, Germany), and William E. Moerner, Ph.D. (Professorships in Chemistry and Applied Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA).  Working independently, each contributed to enable the difficult technological breakthrough that permits light microscopy to become “nanoscopy” or “super-resolution light microscopy.  Much smaller details now can be seen than was previously possible with standard light microscopes.  This great advance in research instrumentation even allows detection of location and movements of individual protein molecules within living cells.

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2014/popular-chemistryprize2014.pdf , and at: http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-for-microscopy-that-reveals-inner-world-of-cells-1.16097 . 

2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded jointly to 3 university scientists: John O’Keefe, Ph.D. (Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour, University College London, U.K.), May-Britt Moser, Ph.D. (Centre for Neural Computation, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway), and Edward I. Moser, Ph.D. (Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway).  Their neuroscience research involves experimental studies of the brain, and seeks to define how place and navigation in the spatial environment are sensed, analyzed, and remembered.  Spatial memory is frequently affected in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.  Their investigations show that this sensing of spatial positioning occurs in certain cells within 2 brain locations; these cells talk to each other and together form a map of spatial locations that is recorded in the memory. 

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2014/press.html, and at:
http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-prize-for-decoding-brain=s-sense-of-place-1.16093 .

Concluding Remarks

The Nobel Prizes represent recognition that science, research, and scientists are producing new achievements that benefit all of us in our daily life.  Ordinary adults who are not scientists should be generally aware of the new Nobel Prize awards, and can point these out to any of their children showing interests in science.  For non-scientists, knowing the names of the Laureates is not important, but the nature and meaning of the research advances meriting these awards are significant (i.e., How are the results important to me and others?).  The Nobel Prizes are a recognition of preeminent progress in global science, and everyone is invited to join this celebration!  

Professional scientists should be particularly aware of the new Nobel Laureates in their branch of science.  Only a small handful of scientists ever win a Nobel Prize, and some who clearly deserve one are passed over.  All research scientists should join in celebrating the wonderful achievements of the 2014 Laureates, and also should celebrate their own less-recognized contributions to the progress of science! 

 

 

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