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Nobel for the Big Bang, not for Halton Arp


Times fanfare for Mather and Smoot doesn’t mention fly in ointment of Big Bang

Arp’s redshift problem another paradigm flaw swept under carpet?

Dennis Overbye’s piece on the Big Bang Nobel in the Times last week (Wed Oct 4) was guaranteed to give inattentive Times readers a warm fuzzy feeling in its story of merit long recognized and now rewarded, a paradigm confirmed with yet another seal of approval, and universal agreement on a popular idea. But to heresy mavens who know to look for them, it was interesting also to see hints of lingering problems with the theory, even though a certain scientist wasn’t likely to be mentioned.

In fact, the success story of the Big Bang paradigm also contains familiar examples of the same politics of paradigm power seen at work in HIV∫AIDS – censorship of a highly respected scientist, ostracism and exile of the same for sticking to unpopular ideas, and the distorting effects of the politics of popularity and success.

COBE proves Big Bang with tiniest measurements

The story in the Times reported this year’s Nobel award to the two physicists who led 1,000 scientists, engineers and technicians who worked on the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) satellite launched in 1969. Their measurement of the microwave radiation in the universe thought to be left over from the Big Bang and the irregularities they found bolstered the Big Bang as the only theory which could account for the phenemona.

A result was a resounding confirmation of a universe born in a terrific explosion of space and time 14 billion years ago and in which the ordinary matter that makes up stars and people is overwhelmed by some mysterious “dark matter.”

“What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe and its evolution,” Dr. Smoot said in a news conference on the results in 1992. About a map showing the splotchy seeds of galaxy formation, he famously said, “If you are religious, it is like looking at God.”

The work led to a wave of theorizing about the dark matter and dark energy that permeates the universe and pushes it apart in “what is known as a preposterous universe”, says Overbye, who doesn’t explain what he means by “preposterous”. Is the paradigm nicknamed ‘the preposterous paradigm’? If so, why?

The work “set cosmology in the track to our present well-based theory of the expanding universe,” according to James Peebles, a cosmologist at Princeton, and Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, chimes in with the assertion that COBE and its measurements had heralded a “golden age” of “precision cosmology”.

A dream realized

COBE allowed precise measurements of the “lumps” in the distribution of the radiation which were hot and cold spots (we are talking of variations of a hundred thousandth of a degree here) which were so small that hopes of measuring them seemed like a “pipe dream”.

In April 1992, however, Dr. Smoot electrified a meeting of the American Physical Society in Washington by reporting that the COBE Differential Microwave Radiometer had seen and mapped the lumps.

Cosmologists now believe that these lumps or ripples are a result of quantum fluctuations, tiny jitters in the force fields that filled the universe when it was a fraction of a millionth of a second old.

A cosmologist at MIT, Max Tegmark, says the discovery of cosmic microwave fluctuations was as revolutionary for physics as the discovery of DNA was for biology. “These fluctuations are our cosmic DNA, the blueprints encoding how the baby universe would develop.”

Exciting stuff. These guys can measure fluctuations of a hundredth of a thousandth of a degree left over from the universe’s birth when it was a fraction of a millionth of a second old. Now they are getting the second Nobel seal of approval, following the 1978 award to Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Labs, who first heard the cosmic background radiation as a persistent radio hiss in 1964.

That was when the Big Bang rose to unchallenged ascendancy in the paradigm wars in cosmology, Overbye writes, and

overnight, the few partisans of the rival steady-state theory of an unchanging universe melted away. But the only way to be sure was to measure the microwaves in all directions and at all wavelengths from space, away from atmospheric distortions and influences.

The tool for this task was COBE.

Forgive us in our ignorance if we say it seems to us that cosmology is getting almost as fanciful as nuclear physics in accounting for experimental results, and that it seems possible that refinements might be made in the Big Bang paradigm in the future, even if it is not toppled. “The COBE results provide increased support for the Big Bang scenario” wrote the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in citation, a small concession to those who might object that the theory has its skeptics still.

That pride in the paradigm may cometh before a fall, or anyway that in describing the universe things since COBE have become almost unbearably tangled again, see George Johnson’s piece in the Week In Review on Sunday:

If only it had been that simple. Six years after COBE, another Berkeley scientist, Saul Perlmutter, found something that almost no one had expected. By now, it was assumed, the universe should have settled down, expanding at a steady pace or even slowing, braked by its own gravity. Instead it appeared to be in overdrive, not ballooning as violently as it had in the inflationary era but expanding at a faster and faster rate. Something seemed to be pushing on the accelerator — what has come to be called dark energy, a mysterious kind of anti-gravity.

Shoehorning the new ingredient into the prevailing framework has created new Nobel-sized problems.

Oh, for the Simple Days of the Big Bang

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The New York Times

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October 8, 2006

Oh, for the Simple Days of the Big Bang

By GEORGE JOHNSON

FOURTEEN years ago, when a Berkeley astronomer named George F. Smoot declared that he and his satellite, the Cosmic Background Explorer, or COBE, had detected the astrophysical equivalent of the fingerprints of God, his euphoria was easy to understand. For a few happy years, one of the last big pieces of the cosmological puzzle seemed to be in place — an explanation why the universe has blossomed into such an interesting place to live.

Had it not been for the whorls and dimples Dr. Smoot and his NASA collaborator, John C. Mather, found in the background radiation — the afterimage of the Big Bang — there would be no cosmic scenery. No galaxies or other vast conglomerations of matter, just a smooth expanse of visual nothing. Kansas instead of Colorado.

Subsequent discoveries have muddled the picture, so much so that last week’s announcement that the two men will share a Nobel Prize in physics was almost bittersweet — an occasion to celebrate a pivotal moment in science but also to look back with nostalgia on more innocent times.

The creation story supported by the data from the COBE satellite had seemed almost tantalizingly complete. Dr. Smoot’s smudges themselves weren’t sticky enough to gather particles into globs the size of the Milky Way or the Virgo supercluster. But if you spiked the Big Bang with an invisible additive called dark matter — a clumping factor — and hot-rodded the theory with a brief, early burst of rapid expansion called cosmological inflation, you could get the tiny irregularities in the background radiation to sprawl into something like today’s sky.

If only it had been that simple. Six years after COBE, another Berkeley scientist, Saul Perlmutter, found something that almost no one had expected. By now, it was assumed, the universe should have settled down, expanding at a steady pace or even slowing, braked by its own gravity. Instead it appeared to be in overdrive, not ballooning as violently as it had in the inflationary era but expanding at a faster and faster rate. Something seemed to be pushing on the accelerator — what has come to be called dark energy, a mysterious kind of anti-gravity.

Shoehorning the new ingredient into the prevailing framework has created new Nobel-sized problems. Basic physics predicts that if it exists at all, this repulsive force should be extremely large. Instead, the dark energy is infinitesimal and no one has been able to say why.

Except, that is, for followers of a controversial doctrine called the anthropic principle. There is no fundamental reason, they say, why the dark energy is so weak. It is just that if it were much stronger, space would have expanded too rapidly to harbor stars and, ultimately, life. The implication is that there is a multitude of possible universes, each with its own physics. Naturally, we are in one where it is possible for us to exist.

Depending on their temperament, physicists find the idea of a spectrum of universes each ruled by different laws either liberating or a source of despair. Since the days of the Greek philosophers, the reigning assumption, more mystical than scientific, has been that things are necessarily the way they are. There is one universe and lurking somewhere within is a deep principle that explains why the strength of gravity, the speed of light, the heft of matter — all the constants of nature — have taken certain values.

With Smoot and Mather, science seemed closer to finding the key — a hope that now sometimes seems as egotistical as the pre-Copernican belief that we live at the center of creation instead of on a hospitable rock orbiting an obscure star in an obscure galaxy in a universe that may be obscurer still.

More recently this faith in our own uniqueness has been tested again by a related finding in superstring theory, which began some 30 years ago as an attempt to pull all the numbers of the cosmos from a few basic calculations. Just as x + y + z = 42 has many solutions (infinitely many if you allow fractions or negative numbers), so do the equations of superstring theory. By one reckoning, the number of conceivable universes, each with a different dose of dark energy, is so vast that it is “measured not in the millions or billions but in googols or googolplexes.” (Before it was retooled into the name of a search engine, a googol was defined as 10 to the power of 100 and a googolplex as 10 to the power of googol.) Why we find ourselves in, say, universe number 110,310,077,252 would again be a tautology: if we weren’t we wouldn’t be here to ask. There may yet be a way out of the muddle with some insight that focuses superstrings into a beam illuminating the one true theory.

But new ideas, some physicists complain, are a dime a dozen. What they crave is new data, perhaps from the Large Hadron Collider scheduled to go online near Geneva next year. What is discovered there might do for physics what the COBE measurements did for cosmology in 1992: provide some long-needed reality testing.

If not there is always Plan B. Maybe physicists in another universe are coming closer to an answer.

Halton Arp, establishment heretic

We do know of one simple reason for saying that the Big Bang may not be entirely nailed down yet and that is the remarkable saga of Halton Arp, a protege of Edwin Hubble himself, who fell from grace with the US cosmological fraternity when he discovered a large number of huge anomalies which didn’t fit into the Big Bang very well. He was prevented from speaking to conferences here on the topic, and in the end was effectively exiled to the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

The red shift dilemma

Arp discovered a number of galaxies associated with quasar pairs where, according to the red shift, the quasars appeared to be receding very rapidly from us, while the galaxies appeared relatively close by, receding much more slowly. Yet the two entities were observed to be linked together. In other words, the red shift calculation on which the description of the shape and behavior of the universe is currently based cannot be correct after all. Something has to explain the “peculiar galaxies” which Arp has found, enough of them to fill a reference volume which finds a place on the shelves on leading astronomers.

This is how it is described at Arp’s site, which has A Short Biography of Halton C. Arp:

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Halton C. Arp received his Bachelors degree from Harvard College in 1949 and his Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology in 1953, both cum laude. He is a professional astronomer who, earlier in his career, conducted Edwin Hubble’s nova search in M31. He has earned the Helen B.Warner prize, the Newcomb Cleveland award and the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award. For 28 years he was staff astronomer at the Mt.Palomar and Mt. Wilson observatories. While there, he produced his well known catalog of “Peculiar Galaxies” that are disturbed or irregular in appearance.

Arp discovered, from photographs and spectra with the big telescopes, that many pairs of quasars (“quasi-stellar objects”) which have extremely high redshift z values (and are therefore thought to be receding from us very rapidly – and thus must be located at a great distance from us) are physically connected to galaxies that have low redshift and are known to be relatively close by. Because of Arp’s observations, the assumption that high red shift objects have to be very far away – on which the “Big Bang” theory and all of “accepted cosmology” is based – has to be fundamentally reexamined!

A more detailed discussion of the specific issue of “intrinsic redshift” and why Arp is said to be wrong is here at the Wiki: Intrinsic redshift

A scholar and a gentleman

Having met Halton Arp, at the 2001 Conference on Science and Democracy in Naple’s Institute for Philosophical Studies, perhaps the only conference in the world which gives respect and a platform to science’s otherwise damned heretics, we were surprised to hear how badly he was treated in the US for coming up with this difficulty, and for sticking with it. In manner and bearing he is clearly a gentleman and a scholar, and as his Wiki entry notes, his survey of galaxies is a solid reference.

His papers and observations are as sharp and combative as ever, as can be seen from his web site which carries them. For example, Astronomy By Press Release – News From A Black Hole

Accretion processes onto Black Holes are supposed to enable them to radiate high energy X-rays. When X-ray telescopes found strong X-ray sources in galaxies they said, aha, this is too strong to be an X-ray star so it must be a black hole in orbit around a star – a binary with a massive black hole revolving around it. Discovery of these now MASSIVE Black holes was so exciting that innumerable papers have appeared showing the X-ray positions and deep photographs at the positions the objects.

Strangely, when these objects were seen optically no one took spectra in order to see what they actually were. Finally a paper appeared in a refereed Journal where the authors showed the spectra of two of them to be that of high redshift quasars! Just to cement the case they looked at previously identified quasar in or close to galaxies and in 24 out of 24 cases the quasars belonged to the class of Ultra Luminous X-ray Sources.

This result is a double disaster in that the massive Black Holes turned out to be high redshift quasars, not a Black Hole in a binary star. Perhaps worse, they have been accepted as members of nearby galaxies and therefore cannot be out at the edge of the universe. Bye bye Big Bang and all that fundamental physics. (This result was not put out as a press release.)

The Halton Arp entry in the Wiki on Halton Arp describes all this in more technical detail, but doesn’t fully explain why the issue should be such a sore point. The standard line is that telescopes have been radically improved since Arp came up with his observations and accompanying theorizing which conflicted with the Big Bang, and that the galaxies which have high red shift are in fact very far away.

Since Arp originally proposed his theories in the 1960’s, however, telescopes and astronomical instrumentation have advanced greatly. QSO’s are now generally accepted to be very distant galaxies with high redshifts. Moreover, many objects that are high-redshift counterparts to normal nearby galaxies have been idenfitied in many imaging surveys, most notably the Hubble Deep Field[2]. Moreover, the spectra of the high-redshift galaxies, as seen from X-ray to radio wavelengths, match the spectra of nearby galaxies (particularly galaxies with high levels of star formation activity) when corrected for redshift effects. Very few astronomers today accept any of Arp’s hypotheses on QSO’s or galactic redshifts.

Notice the appeal to the popularity of an idea as a reason to have confidence in it, which is hardly proven by the history of HIV∫AIDS, and anyway is by definition a bad idea. Science is not a democracy where truth is decided by votes.

There is more to it, at least as far as Arp is concerned:

Nonetheless, Arp has not wavered from his standpoint against the Big Bang and still publishes articles stating his contrary view in both popular and scientific literature, frequently collaborating with Geoffrey Burbidge and Margaret Burbidge[3]

A film was made in 2004 about this by Randall Meyers, “The Cosmology Quest” released by Floating World Films. It has been shown in the US and many other countries in film festivals, to astronomy clubs and at conferences, and on Norwegian TV four times. The film shows that the steady state alternative is still alive and kicking with Arp and a few other holdouts, though there is no sign of it regaining momentum any time soon.

The reviews on Amazon of the DVD are here.

They suggest that there is still no satisfying explanation for the discrepancy, and that it is still possible to wonder who is right, and suspect that the complete lack of discussion might reflect the psychology of paradigm power more than can be intellectually justified.

The disgrace of science is the censorship

Certainly the censorship of Halton Arp’s ideas in the US seems no more justified than any other repression of free speech, particularly in science. As Jefferson wrote in 1779, one of this country’s founding principles is “that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate.”

In the world of cosmology it seems we have another instance of the unpleasant character of successful scientists, whose ideas become vessels for their pride, arrogance, ambition, envy and personal spite, instead of the professional objectivity which the naive suppose would be the rule, particularly in cosmology of all places.

The sad truth appears to be that the majority of professional scientists, like the majority of human beings, are much more powerfully ruled by the attractions of success than they are by the objective contemplation of truth.

Perhaps they should be reminded that it was Hitler who said that “success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong,” and hold themselves to a higher standard.

We are of course referring to the realm of HIV∫AIDS as much as cosmology.

Two Americans Win Nobel in Physics

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The New York Times

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October 4, 2006

2 Americans Win Nobel in Physics

By DENNIS OVERBYE

Two American astronomers who uncovered evidence on the origin of the universe and how it grew into galaxies were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday.

The astronomers, John C. Mather of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and George F. Smoot of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, will split the prize of 10 million Swedish kroners, about $1.37 million.

Dr. Mather and Dr. Smoot led a team of more than 1,000 scientists, engineers and technicians behind the Cosmic Background Explorer, or COBE, satellite launched in 1989. Its mission was to study a haze of microwave radiation thought to be a remnant of the Big Bang that started the universe.

In its citation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences wrote, “The COBE results provided increased support for the Big Bang scenario for the origin of the universe, as this is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave background radiation measured by COBE.”

The satellite measured the temperature and distribution of the microwaves, including the detection of faint irregularities, the seeds from which things like galaxies could have grown. A result was a resounding confirmation of a universe born in a terrific explosion of space and time 14 billion years ago and in which the ordinary matter that makes up stars and people is overwhelmed by some mysterious “dark matter.”

“What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe and its evolution,” Dr. Smoot said in a news conference on the results in 1992. About a map showing the splotchy seeds of galaxy formation, he famously said, “If you are religious, it is like looking at God.”

The announcement of the prize delighted astronomers who had long anticipated a Nobel for the COBE work, which led to a wave of theorizing and experiments that have contributed to the emerging picture of what is known as a preposterous universe, full of dark energy pushing it apart as well as dark matter.

James E. Peebles, a Princeton cosmologist, said, “COBE was deeply important. Those two measurements set cosmology on the track to our present well-based theory of the expanding universe.”

Michael S. Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, said the COBE measurements had ushered in an era of “precision cosmology” that continues to this day. “This is likely to be the first of a number of prizes in cosmology in this golden age we find ourselves in,” Dr. Turner said.

This was not the first prize for work involving cosmic background radiation, which was discovered as a persistent radio hiss by Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson of Bell Laboratories in 1964. They received a Nobel in 1978. Measurements by them and a rapidly growing army of radio astronomers, including the late David T. Wilkinson of Princeton, suggested that the microwaves were uniform and fit the spectrum of a so-called black body with a temperature of about 3 degrees Kelvin above absolute zero, the signature of a dying Big Bang fireball when the cosmos was only 400,000 years old.

Overnight, the few partisans of the rival steady-state theory of an unchanging universe melted away. But the only way to be sure was to measure the microwaves in all directions and at all wavelengths from space, away from atmospheric distortions and influences.

The tool for this task was COBE.

Dr. Mather, who was born in 1946 in Roanoke, Va., and grew up near Rutgers University in rural New Jersey, studied at Swarthmore College and then at the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked for NASA his entire career.

He has been involved with the satellite since 1974, when it was first a gleam in NASA’s eye. Until then, he said at a news conference at NASA headquarters in Washington, he had been hoping to get out of the microwave work because it was too difficult. “But here I am,” he said.

Dr. Mather served as overall project scientist for the COBE mission and headed one of its three instrument teams, in an experiment to measure the spectrum of the microwaves precisely. Praising the COBE results as a “huge team effort,” he recalled that his perspective was that “this was a mission that was impossible.”

The satellite was launched in 1989, after a delay caused by the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. The results from Dr. Mather’s instrument, the Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer, or Firas, established that the Big Bang afterglow had a perfect black body spectrum with a temperature of 2.725 degrees Kelvin.

Dr. Smoot, who was born in 1945 in Yukon, Fla., and studied physics as an undergraduate and a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was lead investigator for a COBE instrument designed to measure spatial variations in the microwaves.

Astronomers knew that the radiation could not be completely uniform because the universe today is not uniform. Matter is concentrated in galaxies. According to the standard theory, the seeds for these galaxies should show up as slight hot and cool spots in the relic of the Big Bang fireball. Many cosmologists, however, worried that these lumps, amounting to a hundredth of a thousandth of a degree, according to the best theories, were beyond detection.

Lawrence M. Krauss, a cosmologist at Case Western Reserve University, said, “People had hoped to see lumps, but it almost looked like a pipe dream.”

In April 1992, however, Dr. Smoot electrified a meeting of the American Physical Society in Washington by reporting that the COBE Differential Microwave Radiometer had seen and mapped the lumps.

Cosmologists now believe that these lumps or ripples are a result of quantum fluctuations, tiny jitters in the force fields that filled the universe when it was a fraction of a millionth of a second old.

Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at M.I.T., said: “I think the discovery of cosmic microwave fluctuations was as revolutionary for physics as the discovery of DNA was for biology. These fluctuations are our cosmic DNA, the blueprints encoding how the baby universe would develop.”

The seeds in COBE’s map correspond to superclusters of thousands of galaxies, the largest assemblages of matter in the modern universe. In discussing the results in the 1990’s, Dr. Smoot said that it was partly to emphasize the gigantic scale of these fluctuations, as well as their importance, that he had made the comment about seeing God.

He received a fair amount of ribbing in the news media for that comment. In an interview with The New York Times in 1992, he said, “It really is like finding the driving mechanism for the universe, and isn’t that what God is?”

9 Responses to “Nobel for the Big Bang, not for Halton Arp”

  1. Marcel Says:

    I haven’t read this article yet, but wanted to point out that “Nobel Prizes” as well as “journalism awards” and the like need to be abolished. The history of these awards is that they frequently are given for false and misleading stories and theories. But the “prize” makes everyone think that these stories/theories must be true. Not only true, but great breakthroughs. Thus Carlton Gajdusek’s ridiculous and deceitful theory of “slow viruses,” awarded a Nobel, made possible the HIV theory. And that story a few years back about Aids in Africa, written by that jerk whose name I forget, gave the devilish Big Lie of Aids in Africa the aura of saintly Truth.

    Down with Awards and Prizes and the deceit, inflated egos and unjustified “genius” reputations they engender.

  2. Dan Says:

    What’s always struck me as odd about the “big bang” theory is…why does “science” need it’s version of the creation story?

  3. Dave Says:

    Also, the problem with Nobel Prize, is that it is given EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

    But, what if it’s a slow year for science? What if nothing big happens in a given year? There’s no reason to give it out yearly — at best, they should give it out only for a true scientific breakthrough. Or, as Marcel notes, mebbe we should just abolish it altogether.

    The only good thing about the Nobel, is that Gallo has wanted it badly, but hasn’t got it:)

    And, you know that the ultimate retrenchment by establishment will be if Gallo ever does get it.

  4. Frank Lusardi Says:

    Dan – The Big Bang is not science’s version of the creation story. It is hardly that original. It’s just the Old Testament, gussied up in modern dress.

    The biblical fundamentalists love the Big Bang, finding it perfectly subordinate to their theology:

    “The Bible’s prophets and apostles stated explicitly and repeatedly the two most fundamental properties of the big bang, a transcendent cosmic beginning a finite time period ago and a universe undergoing a general, continual expansion. In Isaiah 42:5 both properties were declared, ‘This is what the Lord says — He who created the heavens and stretched them out.'”

    Big Bang – The Bible Taught It First!

  5. Henry B Says:

    Thank you for the comments about Halton Arp, indeed a gentleman as well as a scholar.

    Please allow a pertinent plug for the Society for Scientific Exploration and its Journal, which–like the Conferences on Science and Democracy–give “respect and a platform to science’s otherwise damned heretics”. Arp is a member, has spoken at some of our Annual Meetings, and has published in the Journal. For info about the Journal, see http://www.scientificexploration.org/jse.php; about the Society, http://www.scientificexploration.org/mission.php

    We have moderated discussions about apparent anomalies in the theory of plate tectonics as well as cosmology, HIV/AIDS, and much else. In addition to consideration of anomalies in mainstream science, we offer PEER-REVIEWED articles on such controversial topics as UFOs, psychic phenomena, and cryptozoology.

  6. Truthseeker Says:

    We salute Henry Bauer and his invaluable site and Journal of Scientific Exploration, which as he correctly reminds us is the only known peer-reviewed serious survey of science’s otherwise damned heretics and damned heresies, which helps all of us to evaluate the diverse offerings of those who swim against the mainstream, among whom are those who will overturn paradigms and win the Nobels of the future.

  7. Marcel Says:

    Sorry, I wrote that post too fast. I should have mentioned that it was the “Pulitzer” awarded to that guy whose name I forget for his tripe about Aids In Africa, that gave the story its credibility and helped to entrench it with the public.

    As I recall he hit real heavy on “dry sex” which I think is a fraudulent invention of the Aids scientists. (what man could possibly enjoy having his johnson scraped raw?)

    I would also like to know…who funds these prizes? Is it ultimately the same old suspects…big pharma? And who are the judges, and are they free of influence/consulting fees/other associations with Big P?

    Does the Karolinska Institute have connections with Big P?

  8. Frank Lusardi Says:

    Marcel – You’re thinking of Mark Schoofs, who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in “international reporting”:
    Voice Writer Wins Pulitzer

    As for the why and wherefore of such awards, I’d say Alex Cockburn go it about right:

    “The central project of the Pulitzer Prizes for work done in 2005 has been to remind the world that, appearances to the contrary, the nation is well served by its premier East Coast newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post. I should rephrase that. The central project of the Pulitzer Prize committee is always to perform that function…”

  9. McKiernan Says:

    So ermhh, instead of moaning about who didn’t get a Nobel Prize, perhaps NAR might consider those who did get a Nobel Prize in 2006:

    Roger Kornberg , a professor of structural biology, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Stanford’s Andrew Fire won the Nobel Prize Monday for physiology or medicine.

    “The purpose of our work was to discover, unravel the complexity, ultimately to visualize directly the machinery that reads out the genetic information. The central component of that machinery, referred to as RNA polymerase, is itself a giant molecule made up of 30,000 atoms.

    In our work, we were able to determine the precise location of those 30,000 atoms and then go further, reveal, so obtain an additional picture of the molecule in action, as it reads out the information in DNA.”

    Surely, there must be some implications re: AIDS and/or other disease processes.

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