Wednesday, October 27, 2004


The pages of scientific journals, even the best ones, are usually full of research that gradually inches further our understanding of the human and natural world. But once in a while, a discovery is made that holds the potential to be a watershed in our understanding of inner and outer space. It does not mean that our world view of the past thousand years, gleaned through the looking glass of science, has suddenly been shattered. But it does cause a reappraisal of some fundamental beliefs and opinions. It revises what we call 'textbook knowledge', literally reiterated in high school science textbooks. And it may well be a prelude, if not an actual example of Thomas Kuhn's 'paradigm shift'. Not all discoveries live up to the promise they hold, however, and they frequently succumb to the tortuous process of scientific review and test. But the ones that do live, can truly become landmarks.

In this week's issue of what is probably the most high profile scientific journal in the world, Nature, researchers report the discovery of the bones of a new species of human being, which lived just 18, 000 years ago. The members of this species were just 4 feet tall, and lived in the Asia-Pacific region near Indonesia. Until now, it has been thought that the genus Homo consisted of only two well-known species, erectus and sapiens. The discovery of a third species of humans is a major discovery indeed, 'the most important discovery in paleoanthropology in the last 50 years'. The new species is called Homo floresiensis. It may well question our long held beliefs about our origins. For once the claim that science textbooks should be re-written is justified. Read about it and related material here

Monday, October 25, 2004


If God existed, he would surely look like this (or a close replica thereof).

Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life. I met Richard Rhodes, a hero of mine, and one of America's most honored writers, who got the Pulitzer Prize for his book, 'The making of the atomic bomb', a profound and terrifying odyssey through the science, politics and carnage of the twentieth century. This book, which I have read many times, is one of the most influential books that I have ever read, and one which turned me into Rhodes's eternal fan. He is a truly versatile writer, as attested to by his remarkable choice of topics for his books (of which there are twenty, most of them having received prestigious awards). These topics include: confessions of a maverick criminologist, a year in the life of an American farmer, a most candid account of erotic explorations, a haunting account of mad cow disease, a disturbed and enlightened childhood in Missouri, the making of the hydrogen bomb, nuclear renewal, the Nazi SS and the invention of the Holocaust, and most lately, a biography of John James Audubon, the American naturalist and artist, famous for his rendering of birds as they look in real life. It was this book that he was here to sign. Of course, I got my copy signed and two pictures with him. All the above books are brilliantly written, extraordinarily researched. His attention to detail is outstanding, and still his writing isn't overdone for a moment.
God has arrived on earth. Let his will be done. Let Nuclear Power be the source of life and electricity in the future.

Monday, October 18, 2004


I have watched 'Saving Private Ryan' about five times, and not once has it failed to bring tears to my eyes. Of course, that's me because I am intimately interested in World War 2 history, and any good story from those frontlines can make me emotional. The other reason is that Cornelius Ryan's epic novel on D-Day, 'The Longest Day' was the first artifact of war I had to contend with when I was in school. The story inspired me so much that time that I will never ever forget the 101st US Airborne Division. The interesting thing about Saving Private Ryan- one may ask, why so much ado about saving one man? Many people thought that the movie was unrealistic because the mission was unrealistic, not to mention logistically wasteful; six men putting their lives at stake for one man, just because he is the last of his brothers to be living. I superficially agree with these critics, and I am sure that there must have been hundreds, if not thousands of mothers, who lost all their sons in the war. So why all the jazz about the mission, the man, and the movie?
The answer comes during a poignant scene when Captain John H Miller (Tom Hanks) explains it all. Quite simply, he says that the mission might sound ludicrous, but the fact is that he won't feel like going home to his wife if he doesn't complete it. For me, that's the reason the movie was made, to show how every mission and the most mundane of objectives fits in with the big picture. It's important to realise that without these 'mundane' objectives getting fulfilled, the big picture holds no promise at all. If the men and women who are entrusted with them don't hold them up in front of their soul, the struggle is as good as lost, in peacetime and in wartime. In my opinion, it's much more than merely following orders. We see this quality in the bravest people in history, many of whose stories won't be ever heard because they sacrificed their lives for freedom. For me, the movie is most interesting because it brings up the eternal conundrum of war (and peace): how does one man's life compare with the 'greater good' of society? But for people like John Miller, it was not a conundrum, but a simple duty, the failure to fulfil which would have made them feel unsatisfied throughout life. That the secondary school grammar teacher from rural Pennsylvania, wrenched from his simple life and thrown into the enforced throes of war, comes to terms with this conundrum, is as sobering and inspiring as anything can be.

My favourite scene? Just before the last battle, Miller and Ryan (Matt Damon) are reliving some of their memories. Ryan recalls a boisterous and hilarious situation with his brothers. Miller says that his wife used to say something about the rose garden. But when Ryan asks him to tell him that story, Miller says, 'No...I think I will keep that one for myself'. It's as if he knows that he is going to die, and wants to preserve one last shrad of private memory of his wife with him.

At this point, I suddenly remember one of my favourite quotes by T. S. Eliot. The quote is applicable to many of the central themes in human life, and certainly to one as soul searching as war and peace:
"We shall not cease to explore,
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started,
and know the place for the first time"

Friday, October 15, 2004


Seabiscuit is one of those movies which I should have seen much earlier, but did not do so because of the generally unfavourable reviews which I received from friends. Next time, I am going to be much more probing and patient.
It turned out to be one of the most incredible movies I have seen in many years. But here I must say something about movies in general. Different people have a different penchant towards movies. Most of the times, this is obviously so because of our specific interests. An ice-hockey fan is much more likely to truly appreciate the movie 'Miracle', based on the American team's victory against Russia in the 1981 olympics. And so it goes for any one of us. In my case, American History is one of my major intersts, and I so I don't find it surprising that I greatly liked 'Seabiscuit'.

The movie is hardly about a horse, although the horse is the central character in the movie. The most important thing is that it's based on a true story and that changes the equations. Seabiscuit, first and last, is about a people, struggling through depression times, who come together as a nation, beginning a juggernaut towards freedom and progress that continues to this day (Unfortunately we cannot be as certain about that statement given the events and attitudes of the past decade). The common spirit which embodies the American people and their dreams clearly shines through in the movie. Representing this dream is an unlikely combination of men; an ardent businessman who is the eternal optimist, a cast away but spirited trainer who nonetheless has a remarkable way with horses, and a smart alec, ambitious and intense jockey, with all the follies and hopes of youth. All three are facing the cruel ways of the depression. The businessman has lost a child and has been through a divorce, and is struggling to achieve his pre depression eminence and status. He meets a woman, in every way his equal, who will support him through every time. Having risen from rags to riches, he is the perfect example of the American ideal, honest yet ambitious, having great strength of character, yet warm, and most importantly, blissfully optimistic about the future. And that's exactly where the finishing line is for him-at the future. An extremely talented salesman, he is looking forward to have something to live for. Opportunity comes in the form of an aged, quiet, and extremely sincere horse trainer, who has a private and warm relationship with horses. The third character in the drama is a jockey who is struggling to make ends meet. A fierce ambition and Dickens's works keep him alive and well. Together, these three 'can-do' Americans find a horse, a lazy creature who nonetheless captures the attention of all three. They train him, plod him and finally lead him to victory. But that is as far as it can be trivialised.
The story of the horse is the story of the American people. This is demonstrated most convincingly in the publicity interviews which the businessman is extremely fond of giving. Slowly but surely, the horse is winning his way to success. He has to compete against the best bred animals in the country. He loses some, he wins some. In speaking to the reporters, who in those days were hungry for any heartening news to take the public's mind off the economic crisis, he constantly extols the virtues of not giving up. 'You lose some, and you win some. Sometimes, you fall down. But then you either pack up and go home, or you stay put and fight', he says. The reporters nod their head vigorously. That is what strikes a chord in the mind of every American in that time. 'Stay put!' That's exactly what Americans did in the 20s and 30s. And that is exactly what enabled that country to become the citadel of democracy during the dark ages that followed. It is all too easy for critics to attribute America's success to resources and money. But if it had not been for the unity and sense of a common way of life that millions of Americans shared, and the nitty gritty that they put into achieving it, all that would have come to naught. It is a tribute to the can-do spirit of the 'Yankees'. And Seabiscuit was one type of an epitome of that spirit. He did inspire a nation in a subtle but archetypal way, and it worked.

As for the performances, I have seldom seen such fine performances in which the actors really walk around in the skin of the characters. It's hard to say who among the three was better: Jeff Bridges as the good businessman with a gleam in his eye, always looking towards the future, Chris Cooper as the laid back looking but resolute horse trainer (his bearing is amazing), or Toby Maguire as the headstrong and single minded young jockey. I would say that each one of them deserved an Oscar nomination. The recreation of the period is charming, and the musical score by Randy Newman is perfect and nostalgic.

One of the allegiations I have heard about this movie is that it's predictable. But then so was the story about the prince, princess and the demon which my mother told me as a child. That fact diminished neither the virtue nor the value of the story. And in this case, the story is true. The fact that it's predictable does not mar it's inspirational character one bit. Also, it obviously looks predictable in retrospect! The three central characters hardly knew what their and their horse's fate was going to be. And a disturbed nation hardly knew what tidings the future would bring for her. But the horse and the nation, both persevered, and, at least for the most part, became a model of democracy for the rest of the world in a century that had almost brought it to an end through conflict.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


We had a very good talk on the Pharmaceutical Industry today by Dr. Kevin Swiss, a consultant for the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration). In conjunction with the Drug Discovery course I am taking, it offered everyone a 'semi-insider's' perspective of the pharma world.
Undoubtedly, the Phrama industry is the most controlled system on the planet. I won't be surprised if some people think of the FDA as a combination of Hitler, Ghenghis Khan and Pol Pot. I have reason to think that it's even more regulated than the Department of Homeland Security's immigration procedures. The tortuous route that a drug takes through the process of discovery until when it actually gets marketed as a blockbuster entity is basically imagination in a straitjacket. Moreover, this process is essentially a game of snake and ladders. At any point, and even after it has made it into the market, a drug can get recalled and forgotten quickly into oblivion. Some of the more interesting facts which juggle mind boggling numbers (That is, mind boggling for us. The drug people are blissfully at ease with these, just like the politicians):

1. An average good drug takes 10-15 years to appear on the market. The average cost has been acknowledged to be about 800 million dollars.

2. The drug companies have to file a 'New Drug Application' (NDA) after they finish with the initial trials, so that the drug can proceed to large scale trials. This consists, on an average of 300,000 pages of material, a truckload roughly equivalent to two thousand PhD. theses.

3. Everytime a drug gets recalled, the drug companies lose about 3 million$ per day.

4. Requirements for impurity detection in drugs are hideous for the researchers. As less as 1 ppb (part per billion) of impurities may be unacceptable.

Given these facts and many more, it's not surprising that more and more drugs are choking in the pipeline every year. This, coupled with the inherent difficulties of discovering newer drugs, is taking it's toll on the number of new drugs making it to our homes. The system seems to have been caught up in an endless loop; the difficulties in new drug production raising the price of drugs, and the price putting pressure on the political system. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of politics involved at every stage. The pressure on corporates at drug companies is enormous. It's all a grand scheme, literally hanging by the thread of life and death. Given all this, I would really think that it may be better to actually become an administrator with the FDA than a manager or researcher with a big drug company. That way, even if you are paid less, you get to dictate the terms to the actual 'doers' and can get a vicarious feeling of glee and power...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


There has been a lot of debate in recent years about whether scientists should believe in God, and whether 'creationism' should be taught in schools or not. Without saying 'the facts speak for themselves', I would like to mention the results of an opinion poll taken in 1998, whose results were published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature (along with the journal Science, arguably the most prestigious science journal in the world). Especially illuminating is the opinion of the Biologists. For further details, please take a look at the original cited article.

Leading scientists still reject God

Nature, Vol. 394, No. 6691, p. 313 (1998) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Edward J. Larson
Department of History, University of Georgia,
Athens, Georgia 30602-6012, USA

Larry Witham
3816 Lansdale Court, Burtonsville,
Maryland 20866, USA

"Our chosen group of "greater" scientists were members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Our survey found near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. We found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality). Overall comparison figures for the 1914, 1933 and 1998 surveys appear in Table 1 below".

"As we compiled our findings, the NAS issued a booklet encouraging the teaching of evolution in public schools, an ongoing source of friction between the scientific community and some conservative Christians in the United States. The booklet assures readers, "Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral"[5]. NAS president Bruce Alberts said: "There are many very outstanding members of this academy who are very religious people, people who believe in evolution, many of them biologists." Our survey suggests otherwise."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Goodbye Superman. May your hopes and dreams for the future soar the same way that you did.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


If books are the food of the spirit, then play on! This was my intoxicated feeling when I unexpectedly discovered a grand book fair in the big Lenox Mall on a trip which had only been intended as an opportunity to sate our senses, first with lip smacking food, and then with a decent movie. The 'American Association of University Women' (may providence always be ingratiated to them!) had put up an annual book sale. The prices of the books ranged from a non-realistic 50c to a god forbidding price of 4$. There were literally thousands of books, both old and new, adorning the makeshift book shelves. Science fiction, History, Science and Medicine, Law, Literature, Romance and Child care, every category was given generous attention and space. I am going to make another foray hopefully before it closes next week. But for now, here were the gems I managed to extract from those heaps of knowledge:
1. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (a true landmark)- Thomas Kuhn
2. Those Inventive Americans- National Geographic
3. Night- Elie Wiesel
4. The Fifties (a broad look at that remarkably interesting decade through the lenses of some of the period's most prominent photographers)
5. The COMPLETE (that is, really complete) Sherlock Holmes
Armed with this windfall, I was ready for any agonizing experience that may have followed. But the day was kind to us. Cajun food and the entertaining 'Shark Tale' capped off a refreshing and satisfying excursion.

Except for one disturbing distraction. After preciously gathering the books together, I was walking home past the North Druid Hills High School late in the evening, when I saw a very long limo pull up to the school's entrance. Apparently, there was some function going on, maybe a prom. From inside came the noises of partying and dancing. Just out of curiosity, I stopped for a few minutes to see what kind of creatures of comfort would emerge from the inside of that grand display of wealth. What I did see was both obvious and typical. A gaggle of smirking teenagers, some of them holding wine glasses trotted out of the limo and into the building. Probably some rich kid and his friends, I thought, and proceeded on my way. But then, at the intersection of the next road, I saw a police car blocking the road to other vehicles. Curious to know what had happened, I set off walking further. A gloomy scene met my eyes. Three police cars were parked on the road, and many people were standing on the sidewalk. Two women were crying. There had been a terrible accident. Twisted around an electric pole was what had probably been a car. It had been mangled so dreadfully that you could hardly make that out. Strangely, one side light was still on. Lying next to the car was a body covered by a white cloth. I got into conversation with a man nearby. He said that it was a teenager who had been racing his friend in another car. The car had swerved completely out of control. The result was for everyone to see. 'So sad and stupid', he said.
At that moment, what struck me the most was the incongruity of the two events I had witnessed right one after the other. One event, full of life and youth and happiness, the next one, full of tragedy, again involving that very youth. Was the unfortunate teenager on his way to the same function in the school? The facts are not out yet. What a curiously weird world we live in. If, everyday, we could really learn about all happenings, even in our town, it would be so difficult for us to pit the balance of good vs bad, happy vs sad. I happened to experience this incongruity today. Everyone does some day or the other. Really, quite weird...

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Finally got the time to watch 'Dr. Strangelove, Or how I learnt to stop worrying and love the bomb', Stanley Kubrick's ludicrous satire on the nuclear age. In spite of the oft quoted caveat at the beginning (or end) of movies viz. 'The resemblance of the characters in this movie to any living person is purely coincidental', there are some movies in which you can almost guess beyond a doubt the real life characters on whom their reel life counterparts are modeled. In this case, the similarities were quite clear.
The movie starts with a psychotic American General ('Jack D. Ripper' probably modeled on the belligerent real life General Curtis LeMay) issuing an order to bomb Russian bases with nuclear weapons because he is quite certain that 'the Commies are bent upon sapping America's precious bodily fluids'. His second in command, RAF Captain Mandrake desperately pleads with him to give him the recall codes so that he can stop this armageddon. Meanwhile, the American President ('Merkin Muffley': look up a slang dictionary...I need say no more) becomes even more desperate on hearing this news. Constantly badgered by a pompous belligerent General ('General Turgidson' probably modeled on LeMay again), he is caught between saving his face and his 'boys' ,and making sure that an all out nuclear war does not ensue. To this end, he is trying his best to negotiate with drunk Russian premier 'Kissoff' (Khruschev?). At the other end of the earth, a maverick crew of a B-52 bomber, led by a cowboy hat sporting heavy Texan accented Major prepares his crew, both psychologically and physically for the inevitable. Again, I am not going to give away the end, but it suffices for me to say that perhaps the most telling and outrageous character of the movie is the American President's scientific advisor, Dr. Strangelove (almost certainly modeled on in my opinion on the fiercely anti-Communist nuclear pioneer Edward Teller), who happens to be an ex-Nazi scientist. Bound to a wheelchair, his right hand seems to have a life of his own. It does not help that he quite explicitly calls the President 'Mein Fuhrer' from time to time, and then acts as if it was a slip of tongue. When he is proposing a plan to build houses in mineshafts in the event that a nuclear holocuast occurs, he talks about how the general populace inhabiting the post war world should be tightly regulated, allowing only the 'fittest' specimens entry into the mines. His further proposal of keeping ten women per man so that the rate of reproduction is optimized to reach pre war values is looked upon with great satisfaction by all the generals. All this time, his right hand is going up and down by its own accord in the classic Nazi salute. The whole spectacle is a satire on the maniacal and similar ideas about 'the perfect race' that Hitler had.
All through the movie, Kubrick's genius shines. Right from the names of the characters to the dialogues, he makes a point everytime that sheds considerable light on politics, the male ego, and nuclear war in general. Especially the attention paid to the dialogues ('Gentlemen, please don't fight. This is the War Room') is memorable.
The performances are great. Peter Sellers does a triple role and is perfect for each one of them. I personally liked George Scott's performance the best as the paranoid, gum chewing General Turgidson.
It is astonishing how much research Kubrick put into the making of the movie. It was released during the peak of the Cold War, in 1964. The Cuban Missile Crisis had just passed in 1962 and JFK had been assasinated the year before. The world was in great political and social turmoil. Kubrick manages to capture many major aspects of the period in the movie. Most remarkable is the technical research which he did. He read many of the best known books on Atomic Energy and Nuclear War, including the 600 page 'On Thermonuclear War' by Herman Kahn. Incidentally, this book is another landmark book which came out at the same time, which paradoxically talked about the manageable effects of even all out thermonuclear war. (More on it some other time). Kubrick researched the construction of the interior of a B-52 bomber for the movie, using meager information available from public sources. At the time, it was the world's top bomber, and every detail about it was classified. However, Kubrick's conception of it as gleaned from public sources was so accurate that within a few days, he had the FBI come in and question and threaten him.
This movie is a tribute to Kubrick's brilliance not only as a director, but also as a responsible citizen and as someone who had keen insight into politics and human nature. But most importantly, the sarcasm of the movie is very much valid even today, when the threat of nuclear war is as real as ever (actually more so because terrorists now possess WMDs) masked behind prosperity and peace as it may appear.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


In spite of the politicking going on all around, I support the war in Iraq. Here’s why.

1. There can be three reasons why Bush attacked Iraq. He wanted personal revenge on Saddam on his father’s behalf and the WMDs were just a pretext, he went there solely because of the oil and the WMDs were just a pretext, or he actually went there for ‘world peace’. Even if he did it for the first reason, he probably ended up serving the second cause, and also the third. Any dictatorship is insidious to the establishment of a peaceful world, and someone has to subdue it. The UN did not take the initiative. The US did. Also, going there for oil is not wrong. Oil runs the US economy. It’s to America’s best interests to safeguard it in every way possible. As for WMDs, I am certain that Saddam would have got them in the next few years, if not now.

2. As for the people who take the ‘Why is it America’s business to stop terror and totalitarianism everywhere?’ stance, my answer is that it’s not our business to ask that. If anyone should ask that, it’s only the American people. They are the ones who have to suffer the benefits and losses.

3. During the Second World War, America entered the war only after Pearl Harbor. In spite of this, no one raised serious allegations after the war saying that she had participated only to safeguard rubber in South East Asia (even though that was a big driving force for Roosevelt’s maneuver). Everyone accepted that, in the end, it had become a fight against totalitarianism and for freedom, and America was the bastion of democracy that sought to do exactly that. So if they did not advance the ‘rubber et. al. argument’ that time, why should they even advance the ‘oil argument’ in Iraq’s case?

4. The US should have been accused of going to Iraq only for the oil if they had in fact withdrawn their troops immediately after defeating Saddam. Staying there only means that the American Government wants to ensure it's presence in the Middle East in general to forward it's oil interests. In doing so, if it's also helping the Iraqi people build a democracy, there's only good that can come out of that. From this perspective, the 'take out our troops' outcry is valid, but only because of a possible strategic error that Bush has committed, just as Lyndon Johnson did. It should not be deemed an error of intent. I enumerate this in the next point.

5. The Korean War and the Vietnam War can be looked upon as good intentions gone unexpectedly bad. In both cases, America wanted to end Communism, a noble intention, and in Vietnam’s case, the appalling failure can be looked upon only as a massive strategic error. If anything, Lyndon Johnson should be castigated for not realizing this and perpetuating the error thus costing the US many lives. It was bad planning, not bad intent.

The bottom line is this. Totalitarian regimes have to be destroyed in any case. Unless an international body like the UN takes action against them by common consensus, someone has to. If a country decides to do that, and especially if doing that will serve some important political or social cause for that country, I say carpe diem!

P.S.: Not to be taken too seriously. I just wanted to see how it feels on the ‘other side’!

Saturday, October 02, 2004


At last! The Ig Nobel Prizes, awarded each year to the most rib tickling and outrageous science ever done, have been awarded at a gala ceremony at Harvard University. The awards themselves are presented by real Nobel Prize winners. The ethos of the awards is best summed up every year by the statement the master of ceremonies makes at the end:
"If you did not win an Ig Nobel Prize this year, and especially if you did, better luck next time!"
Check for the most hilarious documentation of scientific and social research one is ever bound to read.
For the record, here are this year's winners:

The 2004 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

The 2004 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday evening, September 30, at the 14th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre.

Steven Stack of Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA and James Gundlach of Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA, for their published report "The Effect of Country Music on Suicide."
PUBLISHED IN: Social Forces, vol. 71, no. 1, September 1992, pp. 211-8.

Ramesh Balasubramaniam of the University of Ottawa, and Michael Turvey of the University of Connecticut and Yale University, for exploring and explaining the dynamics of hula-hooping.
REFERENCE: "Coordination Modes in the Multisegmental Dynamics of Hula Hooping," Ramesh Balasubramaniam and Michael T. Turvey, Biological Cybernetics, vol. 90, no. 3, March 2004, pp. 176-90.
WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL CEREMONY: Ramesh Balasubramaniam and Michael Turvey.

Jillian Clarke of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, and then Howard University, for investigating the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule about whether it's safe to eat food that's been dropped on the floor.

The Coca-Cola Company of Great Britain, for using advanced technology to convert liquid from the River Thames into Dasani, a transparent form of water, which for precautionary reasons has been made unavailable to consumers.

Donald J. Smith and his father, the late Frank J. Smith, of Orlando Florida, USA, for patenting the combover (U.S. Patent #4,022,227).
WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL CEREMONY: Donald Smith's son, Scott Jackson Smith, and daughter, Heather Smith.

The American Nudist Research Library of Kissimmee, Florida, USA, for preserving nudist history so that everyone can see it.
WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL CEREMONY: Pamela Chestek, the daughter of ANRL director Helen Fisher.

Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University, for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it's all too easy to overlook anything else -- even a man in a gorilla suit.
REFERENCE: "Gorillas in Our Midst," Daniel J. Simons and Christopher F. Chabris, vol. 28, Perception, 1999, pages 1059-74.
WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL CEREMONY: Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris.

The Vatican, for outsourcing prayers to India.

Daisuke Inoue of Hyogo, Japan, for inventing karaoke, thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other

Ben Wilson of the University of British Columbia, Lawrence Dill of Simon Fraser University [Canada], Robert Batty of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Magnus Whalberg of the University of Aarhus [Denmark], and Hakan Westerberg of Sweden's National Board of Fisheries, for showing that herrings apparently communicate by farting.
REFERENCE: "Sounds Produced by Herring (Clupea harengus) Bubble Release," Magnus Wahlberg and Håkan Westerberg, Aquatic Living Resources, vol. 16, 2003, pp. 271-5.
REFERENCE: "Pacific and Atlantic Herring Produce Burst Pulse Sounds," Ben Wilson, Robert S. Batty and Lawrence M. Dill, Biology Letters, vol. 271, 2003, pp. S95-S97.
WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL CEREMONY: Lawrence Dill, Robert Batty, Magnus Whalberg, Hakan Westerberg.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Some salient points from yesterday's Bush-Kerry debate:

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's totally absurd. Of course, the U.N. was invited in.
And we support the U.N. efforts there. They pulled out after Sergio de Mello
got killed, but they're now back in helping with elections. My opponent says
we didn't have any allies in this war? What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he
say to Alexander Kwasniewski, of Poland. You can't expect to build alliance
when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side-by-side
with American troops in Iraq.

PRESIDENT BUSH: My opponent just said something amazing. He said,
Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq as an excuse to spread hatred for
America. Osama bin Laden isn't going to determine how we defend ourselves.
Osama bin Laden doesn't get to decide. The American people decide. I
decided. The right action was in Iraq.

PRESIDENT BUSH: The only thing consistent about my opponent's position
is that he's been inconsistent. He changes positions. And you cannot change
positions in this war on terror if you expect to win.

SENATOR KERRY: Jim, the President just said something extraordinarily
revealing and, frankly, very important in this debate. In answer to your
question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said, the enemy
attacked us. Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us.
Al Qaeda attacked us.

SENATOR KERRY:With respect to North Korea, the real story, we had inspectors and television
cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry negotiated
that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel rods were, and we
knew the limits on their nuclear power. Colin Powell, our Secretary of State,
announced one day that we were going to continue the dialogue and work
with the North Koreans. The President reversed him publicly, while the
President of South Korea was here. And the President of South Korea went
back to South Korea bewildered and embarrassed because it went against his
policy. And for two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea.
While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out. The inspectors were
kicked out. The television cameras were kicked out. And, today, there are four
to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea. That happened on
this President's watch. Now, that, I think, is one of the most serious sort of
reversals or mixed messages that you could possibly send.

Now, with respect to Darfur, yes it is a genocide. And months ago, many of us
were pressing for action. I think the reason that we're not saying send
American troops in at this point is several-fold. Number one, we can do this
through the African Union, providing we give them the logistical support. Right
now, all the President is providing is humanitarian support. We need to do
more than that. They've got to have the logistical capacity to go in and stop
the killing, and that's going to require more than is on the table today.

Oh, yes! And Bush REALLY can't pronounce 'nuclear': he pronounces it as 'newkiller'. Interestingly, Harvard Professor, child prodigy and Nobel Prize winning physicist Julian Schwinger (Schwinger won the Nobel Prize with Richard Feynman) also used to say it the same way. Any connections?