Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Physics Nobel trivia

Here's the announcement. Here's The Guardian story, and here's the NYTimes story, from which I have excerpted some bits.

First, the names:

A pair of Russian-born physicists working at the University of Manchester in England have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for investigating the remarkable properties of ultrathin carbon flakes known as graphene, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Tuesday.

The physicists are Andre Geim, 51, and Konstantin Novoselov, 36. They will split the prize of about $1.4 million.

Now, some trivia that make you go, "this is how much fun doing science should be":

The graphene creation originated in what Dr. Geim and Dr. Novoselov call “Friday evening” experiments, crazy things that might or might not work out.

In one of them, Dr. Geim managed to levitate a frog in a magnetic field, for which he won an Ig Nobel — a parody award for “improbable research” — in 2000. On another occasion they produced a “gecko tape” that mimicked the way geckos and Spider-Man can walk on the ceiling. [...]

[Dr. Geim] is the first scientist to win both a Nobel and an Ig Nobel. He said he was happy to have both because the Ig Nobel was given “for something that forces people to smile.”

... Dr. Geim and Dr. Novoselov first succeeded in creating flakes of graphene by peeling them off piles of graphite — the material that is in a pencil lead — using Scotch tape.

... Dr. Geim once described the process as “very nonboffinlike” ... and an example of how you could do great experiments even if you did not have the resources of Harvard or Cambridge behind you. “You can still do something amazing,” he said.

Graphene also made it into popular culture, being featured in an episode of the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” last February. David Saltzberg, a physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who serves as the show’s scientific consultant, called graphene “the greatest thing since sliced pencil lead.”


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