Thursday, 3 February 2011

Documentaries and Nobel Laureates

I said in a previous post I'd return to Nurse, although that sounds more like an aspiration than a promise.  Anyway, when the BBC released it's spiel about Nurse's Horizon documentary it made big play about the fact he is a Nobel laureate.  Now I'm fascinated with the Nobel prize (well, the physics, chemistry and medicine ones at least).  I have met a Nobel laureate and it's not hard to be in awe.  One of the fascinations I have about the the prize is the individuals involved and the story of their achievement.  Some of the winners have the quality that can only be described as pure genius.  Some of them are clever men and women who got the prize through damn hard work  Some just got lucky. All I will say of Nurse is that I know enough of his work to state he thoroughly earned his prize through major contributions to the understanding of the cell cycle.  I doubt he's in the last category.

But back to the reason I bring all this up.  The media loves to present the Nobel prize as a badge of omniscience, scientific infallibility, unquestionable all-knowingness.  It's not though, as any in-depth analysis of the winners will show, some of them wouldn't have a clue outside their own area.  So in the end, either Nurse is a scientist who is able to transfer his superb knowledge of molecular biology to investigating and communicating the seperate science of climage change, or he's not.  If he is then his Nobel prize is ultimately irrelevant.  If he's not then the public have been mislead by the difference between a prize, and a guarantee.  And if you want an example of what I'm talking about, check out Nobel prize winner Kary Mullis and wonder if the BBC would ask him to present a documentary on HIV?

Lastly a post about Nobel prize winners would not be complete without me taking the opportunity to quote a Nobel laureate who I certainly consider falls into the genius category. James D. Watson, co-discoverer of DNA.  He's talking about the possibilities of genetics.

"People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great."

No comments:

Post a Comment