Tuesday, October 09, 2012

One Nobel Down

Yamanaka Shinya has won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his development induced pluripotent stem cells (E). The news media is one big physiology fest, with an increasingly exhaused Yamanaka appearing on live feeds and answering idiot announcer questions on every network.

Not bad for a guy whose father, the owner of a small sewing machines parts manufacturer, told his eldest son, "If you do not take over the family business, fine. If you do take over the family business it would terrible" and whose collegues in orthopedics referred to him as "Jamanaka" ("So useless he is just in the way"-naka) because of his total incompetence as a surgeon, working so slowly patients would come out of anesthesia mid-operation.

The only negative is that Yamanaka should have receive the prize two years ago, or at least last year -- his discovery being the Holy Grail of cell development.

Now all the news media is salivating at the thought that Murakami Haruki might pick up the prize for Literature. That Murakami's public appearances over the last two years could be construed as campaigning for the Nobel is probably detrimental to his chances.

As for the right wing in this blessed land, it is chortling, as it usually does: "Nobel Prizes. Japan, 19. PRC, not in prison or in exile for political reasons, 0."


Jan Moren said...

"The only negative is that Yamanaka should have receive the prize two years ago, or at least last year [...]"

No. This was well-deserved but really unexpectedly fast. Normally you wait a decade or more, to confirm that the work holds up over time and see what the wider scientific implications actually are.

My own private guess is that they really wanted to give John Gurdon the price before it's too late (he's pushing 80) and Yamanakas work really gave his discovery the confirmation and wider impact it needed.

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

Yamanaka's creation of iPS cells was a perfect chance for the Nobel committees to start handing out prizes according to the terms of the original charter, which requires the awarding of prizes for recent work.

Jan Moren said...

In science, ten-fifteen years _is_ recent work. Six years is barely enough time to assess whether it is likely to be right and whether it really does open up new research avenues or is just an interesting blind alley.

This is as fast as they can decently award it, made possible only by the very rapid advances since then, and I bet quite a few people would have preferred another five years or so to pass before he got the award.

Bryce said...

Is Murakami Haruki actually that good? His stories' only feature seems to be that they marry an uncertain post-modern symbolism with consumer detritus. Sure, that is an implicit stab at the modern condition, but plenty of authors (I'm looking at you Bret Easton Ellis) have done that. Entertaining, yes, but is it breaking new ground in literature?

MTC said...

Bryce -

Norwegian Wood is unbearable in its self-absorption. In his other works the narrator "Boku" seem far less sure of himself and what he is seeing and hearing.

Anonymous said...

Apparently the Nobel score between Japan and China (based on your criteria) is now 19-1.

It was pretty amusing to see the Chinese netizens blindly going around boasting about their "first" Nobel laureate, apparently all knowledge of the previous 2 winners all expunged from their memories, much like Tiananmen 1989.