Friday, October 8, 2010
The most essential qualification for a Nobel Prize is often longevity. Now
85 and in failing health; Prof. Edwards was a graduate student at the
University of Edinburg in Scotland when he conceived the idea of in vitro
fertilization. His colleague, surgeon Patrick Steptoe, died in 1988. The
Catholic Church, which opposes IVF, invented the superstition that, at the
moment the haploid male and female gametes intertwine in the womb to form a
diploid zygote, the Holy Ghost assigns it a soul, thus making it a person.
The head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which speaks for the Vatican
on medical ethics, criticized the choice of Edwards as, "Completely out of
order... Without Edwards there wouldnt be freezers full of embryos waiting
to be used for research, or to die abandoned and forgotten by everyone."
Poor things. But hes not talking about a person or even an embryo; this
is a single, undifferentiated cell, human only to the extent that it
contains human DNA. So do my nail clippings but I do not mourn for them.
The world needs neither the archaic superstitions of religion, nor more
unwanted children. Every IVF child is a wanted child.
Graphene is a flat monolayer of carbon atoms in a two-dimensional (2D)
honeycomb lattice, and is a basic building block for graphitic materials of
all other dimensionalities. It can be wrapped up into 0D fullerenes, rolled
into 1D nanotubes or stacked into 3D graphite. Andre Geim, 51, and
Konstantin Novoselov, 36, his graduate student at the University of
Nijmegan in the Netherlands, were both born in Russia. Geim is a Dutch
citizen and Novoselov is a citizen of Russia and the UK. Graphite was known
to be a layered structure with weak bonds between the layers, which
accounts for its properties as a lubricant, but the two physicists
discovered they could peel off layers that were only a single atom thick,
allowing them to measure the amazing properties of single-atom thick carbon
films. Their principal instrument was scotch tape. The unpretentious Geim
is the first scientist to win the Nobel Prize after first winning the Ig
Noble Prize. Fe levitated a frog in a magnetic field. The frog emerged a
little confused, but unharmed.
The only American among the science winners this year was chemist Richard
Heck, retired from the University of Delaware, who now lives in the
Philippines. He shared the chemistry prize with two Japanese. Is the rest
of the world getting better in science, or is the US slipping? The answer