Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Nobel season and more

It's the season of the Nobel prizes.

Doris Lessing was unexpected. I haven't even read a single book of hers.

Al Gore's win was timely. Other than Greenpeace and the hundreds of environment groups, nobody seems to articulate the need to save the world more than Gore.

If only the "mechanism design theory" of Leonid Hurwicz, Eric S. Maskin and Roger B. Myerson would save me from debts, then they deserve the Nobel prize in economics. Who knows?

Then there's Gerhard Ertl of Germany. How could one spend one's life studying chemical processes on solid surfaces. His research supposedly advanced the understanding of why the ozone layer is thinning.

Albert Fert and Peter Gruenberg discovered a physical effect that led to sensitive tools for reading the information stored on hard disks. That sensitivity lets the electronics industry use smaller and smaller disks.

Thanks, Albert, Pete. I still dream of having a 10 gig flash drive.

Then there's Mario R. Capecchi, Oliver Smithies and Sir Martin J. Evans who won the 2007 Nobel in medicine for groundbreaking discoveries that led to a technique for manipulating mouse genes.

Does a mouse have a soul? Oh, well...

What led me to write this entry was Capecchi's story. Do you know that this year's Nobel winner for medicine started as a homeless Italian street kid who never took a bath from when he was four years old until he was nine?

Here's Mario's story from wikipedia:

Mario Capecchi was born in the Italian city of Verona in 1937 to Luciano Capecchi, an Italian airman who would be later reported as missing in action while manning an anti-aircraft gun in Libya, and Lucy Ramberg, an American-born daughter of Impressionist painter Lucy Dodd Ramberg and German archaeologist Walter Ramberg.

During World War II, his mother was sent to the Dachau concentration camp as punishment for pamphleteering and belonging to an anti-Fascist group. Prior to her arrest, she had already made contingency plans by selling her belongings and giving the proceeds to an agricultural family near Bolzano to provide housing for her son. However, after one year, the money had been completely depleted and the family was unable to care for him.

The four-and-a-half year old was left to fend for himself on the streets of northern Italy for the next four years, living in various orphanages and roving through towns with other groups of homeless children.

He almost died of malnutrition. His mother, meanwhile, had been freed from Dachau due to the arrival of the United States military and she began a year-long search for her son. She finally found him in a hospital bed in Reggio Emilia, ill with a fever and subsisting on a daily bowl of chicory coffee and bread crust. She took him to Rome, where he had his first bath in six years.

In 1946 his uncle, Edward Ramberg, an American physicist at RCA, sent his mother money to return to the United States. He and his mother moved to Pennsylvania to live at a Quaker commune called Bryn Gweled, which had been co-founded by his uncle. (Capecchi's other maternal uncle, Walter Ramberg, was also an American physicist who served as the tenth president of the Society for Experimental Stress Analysis. He graduated from George School, a Quaker boarding school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1956.

Mario Capecchi received his B.S. in chemistry and physics in 1961 from Antioch College in Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in biophysics in 1967 from Harvard University with a doctoral thesis under the tutelage of James D. Watson. Capecchi was a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University from 1967 to 1969. In 1969 he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Harvard School of Medicine. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1971. In 1973 he joined the faculty at the University of Utah. Since 1988 Capecchi has also been an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He has taught for Duke University's Program in Genetics and Genomics.


Congratulations to Claire Sy-Delfin, winner of this year's Global Media Awards for 2007, Individual Reporting Category, for her story published on GMANews.TV titled "The forbidden games children play."

Claire will receive her award in Washington DC during the first week of December. Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth" won as best documentary in the same Awards last year. Congrats, day. I'm proud of you! Pasalamat ka kay gi-edit nako, ha,ha, ha, ha.

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