Weekly news: For whom the Nobel tolls?

DOES anybody still place any importance on the Nobel Peace Prize, or has this once-prestigious award finally made a mockery of itself one time too many?

In the world of science, in the public eye at least, no accolade has the prestige or cachet of a Nobel Prize. Many of the greatest minds of the last century or so have been recognised for their contribution to furthering our understanding of the universe.

It’s worth noting that two of the greatest names in 20th century science – Hawking and Einstein – have not won a Nobel.

But if we look at the Peace Prize, which Alfred Nobel himself was especially keen to establish when he appreciated how much his invention of dynamite had done to destroy peace, the controversy is not so much who didn’t win it as who did.

Controversy has surrounded this award from the outset. When US president Theodore Roosevelt won it in 1906, the New York Times called him “the most warlike person in the USA”. When Henry Kissinger took the prize in 197s, satirist Tom Lehrer declared that “irony is dead”.

Whatever your opinion of Barack Obama, few people can think he had earned a Nobel in just the first ten weeks of his presidency – yet that is what happened. His award was really the Nobel Prize For Not Being George W Bush.

And this week the award goes to the European Union. This is just baffling, but as a citizen of the EU myself I look forward to having my share of the prize money delivered to me. I think it come out to about four cents each.

The tainting of this prize also tarnishes the value of the proper, scientific Nobels. I think it should be renamed the Nobel Prize for Irony, and awarded to the Nobel Committee itself.

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best wishes

Russ Swan

editor, LabHomepage.com


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