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Graphene Nobel Prize Committee Criticized For Inaccuracies

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the you-guys-missed-my-first-monograph dept.

Science 63

An anonymous reader writes "A leading researcher in the field of graphene has published a letter to the Nobel committee asking them to address significant problems with the factual accuracy of the supporting documents that laid the case for awarding Andrei Geim and Konstantin Novoselov the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. Nature talks with letter author Walt de Heer about his claims that, aside from factual inaccuracies, the document diminishes the role of other groups and 'reads like a nomination letter.' At least one change has already been made by the committee."

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value? (5, Insightful)

phrostie (121428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288562)

Noble prizes no longer have any value or worth.
it's a social club, that is all

Re:value? (4, Insightful)

levicivita (1487751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288594)

You may well be referring to several categories of Nobel prizes (e.g. peace prize, or economics) which indeed have become (or have always been?) an avenue for the Nobel Committee to make political and cultural statements. That is rather transparent to any reader willing to go beyond CNN's coverage of the matter. However, the hard sciences' Nobel prizes are highly credible and are taken quite seriously. It is reasonable for people to expect a high standard, in my opinion. Factual inaccuracies in rendering the decisions cast an undesirable cloud on the decision making process.

Re:value? (3, Insightful)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288742)

Nobel prizes (e.g. peace prize, or economics) which indeed have become (or have always been?) an avenue for the Nobel Committee to make political and cultural statements

The Nobel committee doesn't hand out the Bank of Sweden Prize for Economics. It's difficult to see how they'd then be using it to make statements.

However, the hard sciences' Nobel prizes are highly credible and are taken quite seriously.

The science Nobels have always been just as tentative and flawed as the Peace Prize. Einstein never was acknowledged for Relativity, for example. (He basically won it for the photoelectric effect work he did.) If you know many people in the sciences, you'll encounter more than a few with strong opinions about who should have gotten/shared/never received a prize.

Einstein (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288806)

I had heard that with Einstein's prize, for some reason they weren't giving it out for theoretical physics at the time, so they found that experimental work to be a good enough reason to get Einstein something.

Re:Einstein (2, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288948)

Einstein never did the experiment, though. He just explained the well-known, mysterious result. Just like he did with Relativity.

It's true that the Nobels were intended to go to thinks that helped mankind, but it's also true that Einstein's work (to that point) hadn't really done a lot in that direction. Nor had Bohr's (Nobel that next year). On the other hand, Relativity seemed like it might still be wrong if you were conservative with your physics and didn't trust data much.

Re:value? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288960)

I may think it's somewhat of a shame that he wasn't acknowledged for Relativity, or somewhat of a misuse of the prize to give a nod to Relativity by awarding the prize for the Photoelectric Effect like giving an Oscar to an actor that deserves one for a movie performance that doesn't.

But I also don't think it's any any way inappropriate to have awarded the prize for the Photoelectric Effect just on the merits of that work.

Re:value? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34289188)

I think you're missing the point. The point is, the Nobel Committee has always applied a human, fallible standard to all of the prizes, even the science ones. Don't you think giving awards for their wrong work degrades the awards? It certainly has people complaining about the Oscars.

(Also, I should be clear: Einstein didn't win it solely for the Photoelectric Effect. It's just the only of his discoveries that they named. So basically, they were saying, "Here's the prize, but we're only going to acknowledge the work that challenges our ideas the least." And their wording also basically precluded giving him a second prize because it would have been redundant to give him another prize for services to theoretical physics. So there's almost no way he would ever — indeed, he was never — be recognized fore relativity.)

Re:value? (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34289452)

I realize all that, which is exactly why I mentioned the Oscars, and winning a prize for something other than what the prize is technically being awarded for. So I think you are missing my point, which is:

In this instance, the thing that the Nobel Prize was technically awarded for was in fact deserving of a Nobel Prize.

When that happens in, say, the Oscars, people aren't complaining, they are nodding in agreement with the Committee's decision. An award that is both fully deserved for the specific accomplishment mentioned, and that is also a nod to further contributions, is doubly deserved and in that case does the opposite of degrade the award.

Your point, that this and other less defensible decisions by the Nobel Committee are all the result of fallible human standards is so uninteresting as to not even be worth mentioning. As if there could be an award for "the most important discovery or invention within the field of physic" that doesn't involve fallible human standards. What, you think there's an objective universal method of measuring "importance"? I doubt you do, so what's the beef? You think they could do better? Of course. What fallible human organization couldn't?

I think it's still the case that they have done better at awarding deserved prizes in science than the non-science prizes, and the Einstein example only demonstrates this (while this case may be a counter-example). If you're equating the two simply because they involve fallible human standards, then your problem is with the concept of a prize for "best" science.

Re:value? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290778)

Wow, that was dismissive and pretty rude. I'm going to hope it was unintentional.

You're wrong. Across the board. People do complain about Oscar decisions all the time, even when they're given to deserving recipients if it's for the wrong wrong. Lengthy rants about these abound. If you've not seen them, that's fine (and really, you're a better person for it), but please don't deny that they're out there.

Notice I never once denied that the PE wasn't deserving of the Nobel. You're completely and totally missing what I'm saying. It was worthy, but it was not his best work. It was virtually the smallest thing Einstein did. Failing to overtly applaud SR and GR, however, can easily and reasonably be seen as diminishing the prestige of the prize because it's a glaring omission.

Anyway, I'm done arguing with you. If you don't see my point now (whether you agree or not), you never will.

Re:value? (1)

bhiestand (157373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34303686)

It sounds like you're advocating another type of award I'd love to actually see: the hindsight impact award. What works from 50 years ago really enlightened future research and altered the course of science? What works seemed significant and ultimately led us down the wrong road for a very long time until we discovered their flaws? That would be a fun award process, but it'd probably be post-mortem for most of the recipients.

Re:value? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34304940)

I'm not particularly advocating that, although it does have an appeal, I agree. In this thread, all I'm saying is that any award giving within pretty much the lifetime of the recipient is bound to be subject to all kinds of flaws, both due to human bias and due to failure to see what will pan out and what won't. (The latter isn't so much a human failing as the simple inability to predict outcomes in complex systems.)

Re:value? (1)

ps2os2 (1216366) | more than 3 years ago | (#34384898)

That does sound intriguing, how ever hindsight is never 20/20.
People do not always record things honestly and interviews (or biographies) are far from perfect. Also, the way journalists are today you can not really trust them to tell the truth.

Prime Example: Fox News.

Now I know you just about to say well we know that, but what about 50 years from now when all that left of them is electrons floating around the future Internet (what ever that might be).

I think its a fair assumption that in reality those awards would be much the same as it is today. It would be fact checking with no live person to remember what really happened as minds do forget things.

I am suggesting that any future awards will be more flawed than todays awards.

Re:value? (1)

bartwol (117819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34292498)

Your point, that this and other less defensible decisions by the Nobel Committee are all the result of fallible human standards is so uninteresting as to not even be worth mentioning. As if there could be an award for "the most important discovery or invention within the field of physic" that doesn't involve fallible human standards. What, you think there's an objective universal method of measuring "importance"? I doubt you do, so what's the beef? You think they could do better? Of course. What fallible human organization couldn't?

Of course it's not interesting that the committee is fallible. It took *you* to make that point.

Notable is not that the committee is fallible, but that it has failed, in its assertions, as a matter of fact. The ubiquity of fallibility is not, in itself, cause to dismiss the significance of failure. Not like you seem to do here.

De Heer's argument looks to be factually correct, and in contradiction to the committee's presentation. Your point that the committee can always do better is "uninteresting" (to use your own phrasing). The fact that it was wrong here, the fact you so blithely diminish, is as interesting as Yassir Arafat's alleged contribution to peace.

Re:value? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290822)

"...we're only going to acknowledge the work that challenges our ideas the least."

Be carefull there, Einstein's explanation for the photoeletric effect challenged most of the physics of the time.

Re:value? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34295234)

Yes, it did. But by itself, it had much less effect that SR did by itself. In one fell swoop, Einstein tossed out the time-honored notions of space and time, along with notions of simultaneity and constancy of measurements. People's perception of reality was literally being altered.

The photoelectric effect merely claimed that light came in packets. That's not that radical. Come to it, Plank started that revolution more than Einstein. The real changes in thinking in physics came later, after Einstein. And most of the really weird stuff, the stuff that radically changed our perception of reality, came after 1920. (Schrodinger wasn't to do his wave equation magic for six years, Heisenberg was probably not to do his stuff for nine. I'd be more exact, but I fear Werner's energy level would get too uncertain.) It's significant that Einstein never accepted where QM went after he played his role.

Even More (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34289194)

The Nobel committee doesn't hand out the Bank of Sweden Prize for Economics. It's difficult to see how they'd then be using it to make statements.

The Swedish Nobel committee does not hand out the Peace Prize either, that's the Norwegian Nobel committee.

Re:value? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34290116)

"If you know many people in the sciences, you'll encounter more than a few with strong opinions about who should have gotten/shared/never received a prize."

That's in the nature of something like a prize. The jury always has to decide, and there will be always people with another opinion. How do you want to arrange everything on "benefit to mankind" (as Nobel puts it in his will) scale? It's impossible.

Re:value? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 2 years ago | (#34297970)

I agree, but that's the whole point, isn't it? The science prizes are no more objectively doled out than the Peace or Literature Prizes.

Re:value? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290804)

Well, one casn easily arguee that Einstein's work on the photoeletric effect was way more relevant than relativity, it leaded the way to Quantum Mechanics, if nothing else. Also, the Nobel comitee was always a bit biased against purely theoretical physics. Special Relativity, being a different mathematical description of Lorentz's theory had little chance, and General Relativy was just too late to the game to get the award.

Now, I have my disagreements with their decisions. It is just that in this specific case, they make sense.

Re:value? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34295206)

Yes, but QM also rests on SR in order to work. So while it's true that Einstein helped birth QM with his photoelectric effect paper, SR was fully relevant to it. And in as much as GR had been published 5 years prior (and had undergone a fairly successful test a year prior to the award), I see no reason to have acknowledged it.

Also, the Nobel comitee was always a bit biased against purely theoretical physics.

Which I think makes my case: the Nobels in science have always been somewhat flawed. (Of course, you'll also have to explain how Bohr's prize the next year was any less theoretical than special relativity was. Or, come to that, how explaining the photoelectric effect was any less theoretical than explaining the Michelson-Morley experiment or the precession of Mercury's perihelion. But if you accept that they were biased against theory, then that's a flaw in their awarding process.)

Re:value? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34290820)

Why should Einstein get a Nobel prize for Olinto de Pretto's work?

Re:value? (1)

Dabido (802599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34295446)

'Einstein never was acknowledged for Relativity, for example. (He basically won it for the photoelectric effect work he did.)'

'If you check the award you'll see he received it for 'The Photoelectric Effect and other contributions to physics' I think relativity would come under the 'other contributions'. It may not have been a direct pat on the back for his Relativity work but it still covered it indirectly.

Re:value? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 2 years ago | (#34298000)

But not explicitly, which is the point. The original article has scientists grumbling about the citation for the current prize because they don't like the details. Same thing with Einstein's citation: they explicitly mentioned the photoelectric effect and entirely overlooked his much more significant work to the point where it's basically an intentional omission. In 1920, Einstein's name was most associated with relativity, there's no way that they didn't think about that work.

Re:value? (1)

Dabido (802599) | more than 2 years ago | (#34298372)

Actually, Relativity was mentioned as part of the award. In fact, in the presentation speech for the award it was mentioned first, followed by a kinetic theory relating to brownian movement, and finally the photo-electric effect explained using quantum physics.

So, though the award is listed as it being given to him "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect". The presentation speech makes it perfectly well known that the 'Theoretical Physics' part is relativity and his kinetic theory for Brownian Movement.

Re:value? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 2 years ago | (#34298468)

Yes, it's mentioned in the speech. But it's only mentioned to say that it's surrounded by controversy. Arrhenius didn't say, "He did some fine work there," he said, in effect, "He's best known for this, but a lot of people [in particular, philosophers, not physicists] think it's trash."

Compare how Arrhenius speaks (at length and in detail) about Brownian motion and the photoelectric effect. Most of the speech is devoted to the photoelectric effect and explaining how it works. He didn't even definite relativity.

Re:value? (1)

Dabido (802599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34304854)

No, it's not 'only mentioned to say that it's surrounded by controversy'. He is mentioning it because it was what Einstein was most famous for.

Also, he only mentions one philosopher who bagged it, and said others acclaimed it.

'the famous philosopher Bergson in Paris has challenged this theory, while other philosophers have acclaimed it wholeheartedly'

Einstein and Bergson actually became great friends and Einstein said he respected him. A lot of physicists were highly critical of Einstein's General Theory of relativity at the time.

Arrhenius spent as much time on the Brownian movement as he did on relativity. It is hardly 'at length and in detail'.

Of course, he spoke longer on the Photoelectric effect because that was considered the main thing he was getting the prize for.'

A third group of studies, for which in particular Einstein has received the Nobel Prize, falls within the domain of the quantum theory ...

I would go on to say that this was singled out because it was considered 'a law' where as Relativity and his Kinetic theory were both theories. It didn't get as big a kudos at that stage because the Nobel committee were actually having an in-fight over the nomination. General Relativity at that stage was considered "pie in the sky", with no evidence to even suggest it was correct, where as Special Relativity was considered ground breaking by most physicists (but not all). The wording of the prize was considered a compromise where the committee didn't give Einstein a prize for what was considered 'pie in the sky' speculation (General Relativity), but still allowed them to give a prize to a scientist they felt deserved it.

Arrhenius was the one who allowed Einstein to give his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture on Relativity.

Re:value? (4, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34289092)

But why do they have to taint the science prizes by being so ridiculous with the peace prize? Kissinger, Mother Theresa, Arafat, Peres, Al Gore, Obama... Don't they realize that it seriously devalues the entire institution, not just the peace prize. I understand that it is given out by a different (Norvegian?) committee but Swedish Academy should separate itself from it or make them rename it or something.

Re:value? (3, Interesting)

Jalfro (1025153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34289920)

Well the peace prize is inevitably going to be more subjective than the science ones. Essentially it is a politics prize, though they did apparently draw the line at giving it to Churchill for his war efforts (they gave him a Literature prize instead!). But there are strong reasons for the awards you mention: Kissinger for making peace with China (though ignoring his subversive activities against Chile); Arafat and Peres for their attempt to resolve the Middle East problem. The problem here is that they were a bit premature, as with Obama's prize, which he himself expressed doubts about. You might say it was the equivalent of giving Einstein a prize for 'what we think he'll discover next', but it also has to be seen as the expression of a kind of global sigh of relief at the exit of George Bush. Al Gore's prize was obviously for the ideas, rather than the man, while for Mother Theresa it was just the opposite.

Duality of human actions (2, Interesting)

ediron2 (246908) | more than 3 years ago | (#34294480)

By all means, feel free to explain how the individuals you list are *ridiculous* candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. I'd conceed that this list has names that are contestable, controversial, politically-charged... but ridiculous? The world is nowhere near that black and white, and a human life never fits one definition.

I disagree with one name, I've heard counterarguments that I don't immediately toss aside (due to the source) on a few others... but I also can see how each of them has, for reasons stated by the Nobel Committee's award, impacted the world and our prospects for peace by *some* of their actions.

You claiming devaluation before we agree that the choices are ridiculous is a fallacy. And demanding that a candidate be lily-white is your (wrongheaded) standard, not the Nobel's. FFS, the prize itself comes from a man whose life epitomizes that there can be profound duality in everything we do and every day's acts.

Re:Duality of human actions (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34295004)

The point of giving someone a prize is that they have accomplished (notice the past tense) something worthy of it. At least five of the names (Kissinger, Arafat, Peres, Gore, Obama) were given the prize either prematurely or as a political gesture in order to encourage them to do something in the future. Notice that the Nobel prize that is actually widely respected (physics) is given only when the work is tested by time, on average 20 years later. Compare this with Al Gore's peace prize in 2007 for a documentary he made in 2006. It could have been complete garbage in terms of science and and in terms of policy as far as the committee knew at the time and yet they were happy to award it because it happened to agree with their political views at the time. Obama got his for...hmm what exactly? At least 4 of them, Kissinger, Arafat, Peres, Gore, when in power were active in promoting more aggressive prosecution of war, respectively Vietnam, Palestine, Yugoslavia. If Kissinger, Peres and Arafat deserve the peace prize because they were involved in a peace process at the end of a particular conflict (failed in case of Arafat/Peres) shouldn't the Japanese and German generals who signed the surrender at the end of WWII also get one? How about Milosevic for peace in Bosnia, or Saddam Hussein for capitulating in the first Gulf War and therefore bringing peace?

More To The Prize (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 2 years ago | (#34296060)

The point of giving someone a prize is that they have accomplished something worthy of it.

No, that is where you are to narrow minded and simplistic. The [Norwegian] Nobel committee has a much wider view of what ultimately leads to peace.

The typical prize is handed out for past accomplishments, and typically many Americans don't understand this aspect of the Nobel Peace prize. I suppose it's a logical trap due to your culture and society, from my point of view you hand out prizes for anything quantifiable.

The Nobel Peace prize has been handed out to a number of controversial figures during the last two decades due to a modern and informed intepretation of the root causes of conflict and war. Where there is war, and a leading figure actively creates peace, it is easy to single out a worthy recipient.
However in a modern age of few world consuming wars, more long-lasting conflicts, resolving and preempting conflicts is more interesting.

Where Americans see an unworthy recipient in Barack Obama, for lack of accomplishments, the Norwegian Nobel committee sees the potential to actively aid, lead and pressure the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet, its allies, friends and enemies.

We also cheered his election as a sign that the American people were able to overcome their past in a democratic fashion. In terms of social justice and peace it was a great example to the world as a whole! African nations rejoiced, and perhaps reflected on their own bitter tribal/racial disputes during their elections.

It is not a question of simply influcing the man in question, the nation he leads or his people, but also the people directly opposed to his nation. Where the enemy sees America as the "Great Satan", the prize can project the image of a country, and a leader, with positive sides causing the enemy to question their attitudes.

The committee's hope is that the prize can give the recipients the security, access, influence and opportunity to do great things that leads to increased security, stability and peace!
To create peace you have to be the right man, at the right time, and the Nobel prize is the opportunity. The momentum given might not break down the "barriers" immediately, however this should be seen through the lens of the long term perspective. This is just the flap of the butterfly's wings [wikipedia.org] .

To give you another example that you probably didn't understand either; Wangari Maathai of Kenya received the Peace prize for her "contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace". She didn't play a role in ending any present conflict, but she understood that conflicts would arise in the future if [we] did not prevent the conditions that would create fertile ground for it. As you sow, so shall you reap.

Re:value? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34298056)

I think you're revealing more about your politics and ideology than you are about the Peace Prize.

Re:value? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34290416)

You may well be referring to several categories of Nobel prizes (e.g. peace prize, or economics) which indeed have become (or have always been?) an avenue for the Nobel Committee to make political and cultural statements.

There is no one Nobel Committee, there are several independent Nobel Committees.
The Nobel Peace Prize recipients are appointeded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee (whose members are appointed by the Norweigian parliament).
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel recipients are appointed by the The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (an independent, non-governmental scientific organization). The money was donated by the Swedish Central Bank [Sveriges Riksbank] (in 1967, I think) and has nothing to do with Alfred Nobel whatsoever.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recipients are appointed by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet (an independent, non-governmental organization, altough situated at a public medical university).
Physics and chemistry prize recipients are also appointed by the The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The Nobel Prize in Literature recipients are appointeded by The Swedish Academy (an independent, non-governmental scientific organization).

The fund from which interest the prize money is drawn, is managed by The Nobel Foundation.

But you are right about one thing, The Nobel Prize was founded as an avenue to make political and cultural statements. That was the intention of Alfred Nobel, altough the original idea was to finance the work of people who was actively promoting humanity (had "made the outmost to promote humanity within the past year", my translation), not to give money to people who had done something great in the past.

Here is the critical part of Alfred Nobels will (it is doesn't translatable well into English (English language is sprung from a to limited mindset), you could probably translate it into most other languages (at least to German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin and other Scandinavian languages) without loss of meaning, but I'm only capable of writing Swedish and SwEnglish):

Över hela min återstående realiserbara förmögenhet förfares på följande sätt: Kapitalet av utredningsmännen realiserat till säkra värdepapper skall utgöra en fond, vars ränta årligen utdelas som prisbelöning åt dem som under det förlupna året hava gjort mänskligheten den största nytta. Räntan delas i fem lika delar som tillfalla: en del till den som inom fysikens område har gjort den vigtigaste upptäckt eller uppfinning; en del den som har gjort den viktigaste ["vigtigaste", which have had a slight shift in meaning in more current Swedish] kemiska upptäckt eller förbättring; en del den som har gjort den viktigaste upptäckt inom fysiologiens eller medicinens domän; en del som inom litteraturen har produceradt det utmärktaste i idealisk riktning; och en del åt den som har verkat mest eller bäst för folkens förbrödrande och avskaffande eller minskning av stående arméer samt bildande och spridande av fredskongresser. Prisen för fysik och kemi utdelas av Svenska Vetenskapsakademien; för fysiologien eller medicinska arbeten av Carolinska Institutet i Stockholm; för litteratur av Akademien i Stockholm samt för fredsförfäktare av ett utskott av fem personer som väljas av Norska Stortinget. Det är min uttryckliga vilja att vid prisutdelningarna intet avseende fästes vid någon slags nationstillhörighet sålunda att den värdigaste erhåller priset antingen han är skandinav eller ej.

Re:value? (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290618)

However, the hard sciences' Nobel prizes are highly credible and are taken quite seriously.

In my opinion, these have also slipped in recent years. Certainly they haven't sunk to the "homecoming queen" level of voting that the peace and economic prizes have seen. But there's still been a shift away from fundamental, amazing science to science that may have applications that happen to appeal to the committee. Graphene's a pretty good example - fundamentally very related to other things that have already gotten the prize, and awarded primarily for possible applications that haven't happened yet.

Re:value? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288952)

Most people would consider $1.4 million to be have a value.

Clearly Valuable (2, Insightful)

andersh (229403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34289226)

That is clearly just your [rather meaningless] opinion, and it's not representative of the world's view of the Nobel prizes.

Even the world's most populous nation, China, clearly believes the Nobel Peace prize is meaningful to the point of doing everything in its power to remove the stain on their nation's record!

What is your problem with the prize? Is it that you don't like Kenyan, Muslim heads of state (end of sarcasm)?

You present no arguments why the prizes have no value or worth, yet I can present any number of arguments, cases and quotes. Nobel Peace prize winners have gained the security and access they needed to further their work. From Wangari Maathai in Kenya to the recently released Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.

Re:Clearly Valuable (1)

ediron2 (246908) | more than 3 years ago | (#34294526)

Wow, GP makes an unsubstantiated claim that the nobel is worthless and gets modded +5 insightful. Parent calls bullshit, and lists impacts, questions if there's political motivation for the diatraibe, then lists deserving Nobel-Peace-Prize names, the help the prize granted them and mroe, and gets called flamebait.

Bravo, slashdot. The stupidity burns...

Re:value? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34290300)

Let me guess: according to your opinion Nobel prizes lost all their value or worth once a politician from a rival party which you loath was awarded with one of them, right?

first (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34288564)

omg omg first

Difficulties with science (4, Insightful)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288574)

Well, this is an understandable result of trying to hand out science nobel prizes. The science these days is more the effort of many groups competing and collaborating than that of a single individual. Picking out an individual therefore, worthy of the Nobel Prize, is bound to be inaccurate. The prizes should be given to groups instead...

Re:Difficulties with science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34288778)

It is interesting that you consider Andrei Geim and Konstantin Novoselov to be a single individual. Also, "a single individual" is redundant.

Re:Difficulties with science (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288830)

Also, "a single individual" is redundant.

"single individual" might be written to rule out any confusion between "several individuals". Individual can mean "person", so depending on the meaning it isn't redundant.

Re:Difficulties with science (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34289364)

or an individual research group.

Which carries with it fairly deep complications. Most of the Nobel physics prizes are relatively deep into their career when they do the work and may have supervised several students (both undergrad and grad), and collaborated on these projects with many scientists for years. How do you portion out credit to to all the involved people then?

I would contrast this with earlier nobel prizes where the winners were rewarded for work typically done early in their careers. If you've been a tenured faculty for 4 or 5 years, that means you've been around for potentially 9, 10 years, you've done a lot in there.

Re:Difficulties with science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34288924)

Single individuals are different from married individuals.

Layman's summary (4, Informative)

vsage3 (718267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288764)

I guess since IAAP (Physicist), I can try to translate some of the physics-ese. Here is the basic argument of the letter:

1. One of the reasons Geim got the Nobel was that he "discovered" graphene. However, the paper the committee is using to establish the date he discovered it (2004) in fact has no reference to graphene but rather graphite, it's well-known cousin. This is an important distinction because a few other groups have graphene papers around the same time.

2. Geim uses a method for creating graphene that is not commercially viable, yet has been credited with a revolution in electronics technology.

3. One of Geim's collaborators goes almost completely uncited although his data is used in the document and appears credited to Geim.

Re:Layman's summary (2)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288794)

I'm no physicist, but I'mma assume your post is of substance. And I hope others in-the-know corraborate/add to it.

This is sorta thing that make slashdot more than buncha geeks posting loads of nonsense.

Re:Layman's summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34289704)

I'm no physicist, but I'mma assume your post is of substance. And I hope others in-the-know corraborate/add to it.

Or you could, I don't know, Read The Fine Article?

This is sorta thing that make slashdot more than buncha geeks posting loads of nonsense.

What would this thing be, posting without RTFA-ing?

Okay, I'm done ranting. Clue: it's fairly accurate.

Re:Layman's summary (3, Interesting)

DMiax (915735) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290040)

1. One of the reasons Geim got the Nobel was that he "discovered" graphene. However, the paper the committee is using to establish the date he discovered it (2004) in fact has no reference to graphene but rather graphite, it's well-known cousin. This is an important distinction because a few other groups have graphene papers around the same time.

I am a physicist too and want to add a piece of info. The complainer purports that he had already obtained those results in graphene in 2004 but "did not realize it".

This claim is what makes me throw away his claims altogether. Even taking the statement at face value if he did not realize the contribution to the subject is exactly zero, or maybe even misleading.

I say this as one who was told "we basically did the same thing before you" about one of my papers when, in fact, they did not.

Re:Layman's summary (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290750)

The complainer purports that he had already obtained those results in graphene in 2004 but "did not realize it".

Really? That's hilarious. Some caveman might have obtained those results too after mucking about with some soot, just not realize it.

There are zillions of results everyday, scientists are the ones that go "hmm that's interesting, why did that happen".

Re:Layman's summary (4, Informative)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290768)

The "magic" in this case is not graphene, but rather good old Silicon Oxide. And that's why de Heer's work on SiC is not recognized and he is not credited for being first to isolate graphene. Let me explain

People make graphene all the time as long as they are working with carbon. Trouble is, it is impossible to distinguish a single layer from a double layer from a triple layer when they are so tiny. You can probably use an expensive AFM to map the topography, but that's a pricy and time consuming proporsition. On SiC, you chemically etch away a some Si atoms on the surface layers, leaving you with one, two, or probably three layers of graphene. But it is difficult to control chemistry. How do you know WHERE your 1, 2, 3 layers are even if you have made them?

That's where SiO2 comes in. In the case of prize winner, they were working with SiO2 substrate. Due to certain dielectric property turn out to have an interference effect with VISIBLE light that the reflected light from 0, 1, 2, 3 layers of graphene on top of it become distinguishable enough in color that the naked eye that a train graduate student can just look under an inexpensive microscopy and says here's a monolayer, here's a bilayer, and so on. (Beyond 4 layers it's hard to tell from bulk graphite). You cannot do that with SiC. Yes, the "scotch tape" method produced crappy graphene as far as electronic properties is concern (yet they still observer QHE at room temperature. That tells you how good a conductor graphene is), but that's why this method is not used any more pass 2006. But the discovery here is not graphene per se, but how to cheaply and easily identify it and as a result, the explosion of researches following their work.

So I suppose you can say these guys got lucky caz they were working with the right substrate. But that's science discovery for ya

REF: http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0705.0091 [arxiv.org]

Re:Layman's summary (1)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290786)

Replying to myself. On SiC, you can also deposit carbon vapor and they will--like snow falling--grow into few layers. The same problem is still present, how do you find them?

Incorrect/Misleading Layman's Summary (1)

631i41 (852729) | more than 2 years ago | (#34300092)

Actually you are a bit wrong here (on many counts)! Exfoliated graphene from HOPG has, actually, phenomenal electronic properties. On the other hand for example, epitaxial graphene (sublimation of Si from SiC), which I work with, is typically less pristine than exfoliated (scotch tape method) due to either a buffer layer between the graphene and SiC (when grown on the Si-face) or a difficult to control and poorly understand growth morphology (when grown on the C-face). There are other details here that I omit for sake of the "layman's summary". More and more avenues of fabrication are being investigated/discovered/perfected as the years and months go on many of which produce graphene, but none of which produce as pristine graphene as the Scotch tape method. Graphene on SiC is prepared by subliming silicon from the furnace in an inert ambient NOT chemically etching the Si away. It is highly controllable on the Si-face, less so on the C-face although progress is being made. You say that exfoliation is not used any more to fabricate graphene. In fact it is one of the most common techniques. It is certainly not scalable to production levels but is consistent in producing PRISTINE and CHEAP graphene. AFM will likely NOT be able to tell you the number of layers you have due to the exceedingly thin material. In fact, its even quite difficult to use TEM due to the highly destructive sample preparation process. There are several ways to identify layer thickness but many are contested. Some include, elipsometery, Raman spectroscopy, TEM, electrical measurements, ARPES, etc etc. You may be right that the discovery "is not graphene," I think that the discovery is "realizing the usefulness of graphene." Moreover, de Heer emphasizes that graphene was known of before 2004, but it was not realized until, he says, his work in the 90's that such a material could be used for interesting/novel/high performance electronics. I think the Nobel Prize was given to recognize Novoselov and Geim's instrumentality in realizing this utility of the material, but maybe you are correct and that it should not be in recognition of "their discovery."

Re:Incorrect/Misleading Layman's Summary (1)

silverpig (814884) | more than 3 years ago | (#34303480)

This post is correct. I worked with exfoliated graphene (although we used a different type of tape to nitpick) and it had excellent electronic properties. The SiC method produced graphene-like material, but it was, until recently, not very certain that it was in fact graphene due to such strong bonding from the substrate layers. The carbon/copper solute -> freezing / CVD method looks promising.

Re:Incorrect/Misleading Layman's Summary (1)

631i41 (852729) | more than 3 years ago | (#34303536)

Thats what I said!!!! Exfoliated graphene has excellent properties while epitaxial generally has mobilities an order of magnitude lower (average 1000 to 2000 cm2/Vs but reported up to 7k or 8k). New techniques with hydrogenation to passivate the buffer layer on the Si-face have resulted in higher quality (more isolated from substrate) graphene. You are mistaken about the copper CVD method. Ruhoff's group has reported that there is no C solution in the Cu, BUT there is with a Ni based CVD. The method does look promising though, I agree.

Re:Incorrect/Misleading Layman's Summary (1)

silverpig (814884) | more than 3 years ago | (#34306434)

Ah. I haven't kept up with the progress in the past several months. I just was impressed with the Cu CVD method out of Korea and they mentioned a lower solubility in Cu than in Ni which resulted in fewer C layers upon cooling. That was just in a preprint though.

Re:Incorrect/Misleading Layman's Summary (1)

631i41 (852729) | more than 3 years ago | (#34303540)

Please re-read my original comment because I have said the same thing as you!

Sour grapes (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34288902)

This is mostly a case of sour grapes from a researcher who came in second, both in the science of graphene as well as in the PR game that is a big part of deciding who gets prizes in a competitive research area.

"Backgrounder" not a scholarly review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34289266)

The "Nobel Backgrounder" is not a peer-directed scholarly review but a short popular-level summary of the research awarded the prize. Trying to make it cover all the related research that did not qualify for the prize this year might soothe injured feelings but would also require a lot more length and complexity. De Heer and Kim did excellent work on graphene. The fact that the backgrounder centers instead on the work by the two scientists who got the prize this year does not mean that the Nobel Committee did not realize that much work in graphene preceded, contributed to, and coincided with their work.

As Klitzing points out in the Nature article cited, the Nobel Committee was so interested in informing themselves about graphene that they sponsored a symposium on the topic, which many Nobel Committee members and Nobel-nominators attended. Kim was a speaker there, so was de Heer. Their work was not deemed to deserve a Nobel Prize this year.

Fr0st 4ist (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34289816)

Of playing your to use the GNNA man walking. It's rules to follow used to. SHIT ON (I always bri[ng my

Not uncommon (2, Insightful)

geogob (569250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290064)

The kind of things that are pointed out in the letter are very common in the academic and scientific world. We see these kind of 'inaccuracies' all the time in scientific papers and talk, regardless of whether they have been peer reviewed or not. In this context, I even wonder why someone would be surprised to see this arise in Nobel prize nominations.

First, the nominations are based on sources themselves having such 'inaccuracies'. Second, the Nobel committee is just another form of peer review and is also prone to make such 'inaccuracies'.

Finally, I've read other post stating that politics are important in some other Nobel prizes (eg. Nobel peace prize) but, God forbid, not in Physics and similar. 'Politics' are always important -- not necessarily international politics or politics as most people mean it, but academic politics. It would be illusory to think otherwise.

Thoughts from graphene reseacher (2, Insightful)

631i41 (852729) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290188)

I have worked with graphene for about a year now (I know, I joined the party a bit late) and have heard Walt speak a few times. It seems that Walt has always been a little bitter about this. Is his bitterness warranted? I think that he makes a strong case for himself and I am truly disappointed by the inaccuracies he has pointed out (they are substantial and valid in my estimation as novice scientist *see de Heer's letter*). There are a few things I'd like to add to the discussion. I do not doubt the merits of either Geim and Novoselov's or de Heer and Berger's work, both groups have made significant contributions regarding graphene and perform excellent work. The core conflict at hand, whether Geim and Novoselov deserve the prize, is a difficult one. And as so many others have said before, this is a process that is inherently human and susceptible to error. But should we not strive to be most scrutinizing and fair in deliberating the outcome? I know that Walt feels that he deserves just as much credit as Geim and Novoselov for his work; and I think that severely hurts his case (as others mentioned) by tainting it with a tinge of jealousy or bitterness. But the fact remains that he makes many very important observations about the inaccuracies, failures, and "hype" (for lack of better terminology) of the Sci. Bckgd. document which is (we assume) to be held to the highest standards. It is really sad to see this happen. It makes me wonder the true value of the Nobel Prize. Shouldn't our work itself, as scientists, stand alone as a testament to our efforts and value?

controversy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34291214)

Some would argue Einstein wasn't the first to discover relativity.

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