Quirks & Quarks for Oct 9, 1999

Real Audio sound files: Listen in realtime, or download.

Eyes on the Prize, A Nobel Preview

The Nobels are the most famous international science awards given out. Winners of the awards become celebrities and their lives are never the same again. Dr. Michael Smith is one of the canadian recipients of the award. Dr. Harriet Zuckerman is a sociologist who has considered the effects of winning the Nobel prizes in her studies of the scientists who have won them. Dr. Jackie Duffin takes a look at how the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine has evolved to the modern day.

Links to Noble Sites
The Nobel Foundation - The official website
The Nobel Prize Internet Archive - Information on all the past winners
Micheal Smith - Profile of a Nobel Laureate

The Ignoble Awards

The 9th Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony was held last week at Harvard University. The Ig Nobels honour individuals whose achievements ìcannot or should not be reproduced.

Ten prizes are awarded to people who have done remarkably goofy things. Among this yearís winners were Dr. Len Fisher of England, who won the Physics prize for calculating the optimal way to dunk a biscuit; Takeshi Makino of Japan, won the Chemistry prize for inventing an infidelity spray that wives can apply to their husbandsí underwear; and Dr. Arvid Vatle of Norway, was awarded the Medicine Prize for collecting, classifying and contemplating which kinds of containers his patients chose when submitting urine samples.

The lone Canadian winner this year was Steve Penfold of York University in Toronto, who won the Sociology Prize for doing his PhD thesis on the sociology of Canadian donut shops.

For the full details, visit the Ig Nobel Awards web site.

The Chemistry of Hydrothermal Vents

Hydrothermal vents occur where water penetrates deep into the earth, gets heated by our planetís molten core, and rises back up, sometimes carrying souvenirs with it. The water can dissolve minerals and metals that have been locked away in the earthís crust, and bring them along on its ride to the surface. Unfortunately, some of whatís coming up is not very welcome. Recently an international team of geologists found a hydrothermal vent thatís expelling large amounts of Mercury ñ a toxic metal - right into the ocean. And theyíre raising concerns that similar vents could be pumping much more Mercury into our seas.

Dr. Mark Hannington is a Research Scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada in Ottawa. He was part of the team that discovered the mercury-spewing vent.

Or read the original research abstract in "Geology"

A Family Tree...for Plants

Traditional biological theory says simple plants moved from the oceans to the land. But a group of botanists are challenging that idea. It's one of the conclusions from a five year study conducted by 200 scientists around the world to map the family tree for plants. Dr. Brent Mishler is a professor of Integrative Biology from the University of California at Berkeley. He's one of the principal investigators with the project.

To find out more visit the Green Plant Phylogeny Web Page.

Question of the Week...The Titanic Baker

Dr. John Hayward, a professor emeritus in Victoria B.C. gives a possible explaination for the survival of the baker on the Titanic.

[Last Week] [Next Week][Archives] [QuirksHome] [quirks@toronto.cbc.ca]