Nobel Prizes and the World Series

You may be asking what Nobel Prizes and the World Series have in common. In a year when news headlines provide a surfeit of examples of Koyaanisqatsi (Hopi for Life Out of Balance) and flags seem to have flown unfurled at half mast more often than not, October provided us with reason for hope and optimism in the form of the Nobel Prize announcements and the beginning of the World Series.

Amidst news reports full of fear, hate, senseless shootings, war, destruction of art and cultural treasures, refugees, homeless, carbon dioxide levels hitting the 400ppm threshold, rising xenophobia, resurgence of “Jim Crow” laws and thinking; the Nobel Prize announcements and the World Series showed up in the news like much needed sun breaks during a long run of stormy weather.

The impact was almost medicinal as the 2016 Nobel Laureates were announced over a ten-day period followed, not too long after, by the start of the World Series. The Nobel Prizes give worldwide recognition to, often lifetime, efforts to make the world a better place. The World Series recognizes the athleticism of the two baseball teams that made it and demonstrates that sportsmanship is still alive at least in some professional sports.

Here are a few of the lowlights that I recall from more recent news: At the very end of September President Obama was being blamed for flaws in a law he vetoed by the very people who overturned his veto. Huh? In the first week of October tensions rose between the USA and Russia over Syria, meanwhile the refugees continue to struggle to survive, Colombia voted against a FARC peace deal, Donald Trump denigrates women (again), and then, on 3 October, like a breath of fresh air the Nobel Prize announcements began.

It is worth taking a look at Alfred Nobel’s own words in establishing these prizes:

“The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses. The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiology or medical works by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm, and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.”

This years’ awards that give a reason for optimism:

3 October
The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Yoshinori Ohsumi “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy”. It is because of his “paradigm-shifting research” that “Intense research is now ongoing to develop drugs that can target autophagy in various diseases.” These diseases include Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, diseases that appear in elderly people and a link to cancer.

4 October
The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics was divided, “one half awarded to David J. Thouless, the other half jointly to F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”. The foundation of their work has far reaching impact on further research in this area and lays groundwork for “…new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers.”

5 October
The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 went, jointly, “to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines”. Their work has “taken molecular systems out of equilibrium’s stalemate and into energy-filled states in which their movements can be controlled. In terms of development, the molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to washing machines, fans and food processors. Molecular machines will most likely be used in the development of things such as new materials, sensors and energy storage systems.”

7 October
The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Juan Manuel Santos “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end…The civil war in Colombia is one of the longest civil wars in modern times and the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas. It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s firm belief that President Santos, despite the “No” majority vote in the referendum, has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution, and that much of the groundwork has been laid for both the verifiable disarmament of the FARC guerrillas and a historic process of national fraternity and reconciliation. His endeavors to promote peace thus fulfil the criteria and spirit of Alfred Nobel’s will.”

10 October
“The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2016 was awarded jointly to Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström “for their contributions to contract theory”
Hart’s work has “…had a vast impact on several fields of economics, as well as political science and law…provides us with new theoretical tools for studying questions such as which kinds of companies should merge, the proper mix of debt and equity financing, and when institutions such as schools or prisons ought to be privately or publicly owned.” Together Hart’s and Holmström’s “analysis of optimal contractual arrangements lays an intellectual foundation for designing policies and institutions in many areas, from bankruptcy legislation to political constitutions.”

13 October
The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition…Dylan has recorded a large number of albums revolving around topics such as: the social conditions of man, religion, politics and love…As an artist, he is strikingly versatile; he has been active as painter, actor and scriptwriter…Besides his large production of albums, Dylan has published experimental work like Tarantula (1971) and the collection Writings and Drawings (1973)…Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature.” His work has been translated into French, Spanish, Swedish, and German.

I believe this award clearly aligns with Nobel’s own words “…to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction…” I find it hard to narrow down to just one example of this, but take a look at a few lyrics from “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” released in 1965. Typical of great verse, these words have as much relevance today as they did when written:

“Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you…

…While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him…

…While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough, what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only”

One more example, this from a 1974 love song “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”:

Situations have ended sad
Relationships have all been bad
Mine’ve been like Verlaine’s and Rimbaud
But there’s no way I can compare
All those scenes to this affair
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go

Yer gonna make me wonder what I’m doin’
Stayin’ far behind without you
Yer gonna make me wonder what I’m sayin’
Yer gonna make me give myself a good talkin’ to

I’ll look for you in old Honolulu
San Francisco, Ashtabula
Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go

For more Dylan lyrics check out Bob Dylan Songs

Just over a week after the final Nobel Prize announcement, the World Series began providing yet another nice break from all the hate and discontent, the “fear and loathing” in the news. Here we have two “Cinderella story” teams that made it to the World Series. Secretly I think I’m rooting for the Cubs…after all, one of my favorite songwriters (Steve Goodman RIP) was a Cubbies fan and they’ve had a bit of a tougher haul. No matter. Baseball, for me, is a sport where you can still witness good sportsmanship and if the ‘other’ team wins, you can say “Hey, they played a great game. I saw some good baseball.” I enjoy watching a runner on base and the base man from opposing teams talking, joking, laughing. I love seeing a batter whose “out” was due to a fabulous catch, giving a smile and nod of apreciation and recognition of ‘just good baseball’ to the person that made the “out”. They can compete without becoming arch enemies. Sure there is rivalry on the field but these guys are not going out of their way to try to hurt each other or malign their opposition.

The 2016 Nobel Prize Lareautes and their fellows, past and future, represent many more people striving to make the world better, in Nobel’s words “For the greatest benefit to mankind”. Would that their humanity and a little World Series sportsmanship would spread.

Citations
“The Will”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 31 Oct 2016. Alfred Nobel’s Will

“The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2016”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize, Medicine

“The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – Press Release”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize Medicine Press Release

“The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize Physics

“The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics – Press Release”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize Physics Press Release

“The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize Chemistry

“The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry – Press Release”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize Chemistry Press Release

“The Nobel Peace Prize 2016”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize Peace

“The Nobel Peace Prize 2016 – Press Release”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize, Peace Press Release

“The Prize in Economic Sciences 2016”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize Economics

“The Prize in Economic Sciences 2016 – Press Release”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize, Economics Press Release

“The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize Literature

“The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 – Bio-bibliography”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Oct 2016. Nobel Prize, Literature, Bio-Bibliography

“It’s Alright Ma, (I’m Only Bleeding”. bobdylan.com. Songs, Lyrics. Lyrics to “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”. bobdylan.com. Songs, Lyrics. Lyrics to “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”

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