Friday, October 10, 2003
1. THE PRIZE: CHEMIST AND PHYSICIST SHARE MEDICINE NOBEL AWARD.
Paul Lauterbur of the University of Illinois, a chemist, was awarded a long overdue Nobel prize for his
seminal role in the development of MRI. In work done at Stony Brook, he introduced gradient coils into the
magnetic field, making it possible to build up two-dimensional images. The prize was shared with a British
physicist, Sir Peter Mansfield, who showed how signals could be mathematically analyzed for extremely fast
imaging, effectively giving a three-dimensional view. The discovery of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance by Felix
Bloch and Ed Purcell was recognized by the Nobel Prize in 1952. The word "nuclear" was later omitted to
ease public concern, but then Paul Brodeur, of EMF/cancer notoriety, advised people to avoid MRI because the
magnetic field might induce cancer (WN 25 Aug
89). Go figure.
2. RECALL MOVE: NOT THE ONE IN CALIFORNIA, THE ONE IN STOCKHOLM.
The Washington Post carried a full page ad yesterday showing an upside down Nobel medal and huge print
proclaiming, "This Year's Nobel Prize in Medicine: A Shameful Wrong That Must Be Righted." The ad says
medical doctor Raymond Damadian made the breakthrough discovery. It didn't say who paid for the ad, but
there was a phone number. It turned out to be that of the Fonar Corp. We complained. The next day the ad
was in the NY Times, and Fonar was identified. We Googled Fonar; guess who the CEO is? Raymond Damadian.
There's an important moral here somewhere. Science is open. We share our thoughts and our data,
everything. We can't always recall the source of our ideas. Sometimes, even friends feel slighted. But
the Nobel Prize is valuable to all of us. It's a chance to give the public a glimpse of what science can
do. We honor the winners, but in truth we all contribute by stirring the intellectual stew from which new
3. MEANWHILE: MEDICAL DOCTORS SHARE A NOBEL PRIZE FOR CHEMISTRY.
This year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to two medical doctors for explaining selective transport
of molecules across cell membranes. Peter Agre of Johns Hopkins showed how water channels serve as water
purifiers. Independently, Roderick MacKinnon of Rockefeller Univ. discovered how potassium ions pass
through channels in the cell membrane that exclude other ions. We are truly entering an age in which
traditional disciplinary boundaries separating scientists mean little (WN
3 Oct 03).
4. PHYSICS NOBEL: A WINNING STRATEGY SHOULD INCLUDE LONGEVITY.
It might also be a good idea to work on superconductivity. Alexei Abrikosov 75, who is an American and
Russian citizen, is at Argonne National Lab. He based his treatment of type-II superconductors on the
theory of Vitaly Ginzburg, 87, from the Lebedev Institute in Moscow, who had long since given up hope of a
Nobel. Anthony Leggett, both American and British, is a mere 65. He is at the University of Illinois,
which did quite well this year. He explained superfluidity in helium-three, but his theory also found
application in particle physics and cosmology.