Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Boyle and Wilson's Nobel Prize

So Willard Boyle and George Smith won half the Nobel Prize in physics yesterday -- another coup for the Bell Labs, whose workers have won a total of 7 Nobel Prizes, all in physics -- for the invention of the CCD. I found this particularly interesting because several years ago I was commissioned to write a profile of them and their work for a magazine I won't name. I talked a few times on the phone to Boyle in Halifax, and flew to New Jersey and met with George Smith in his home on the Jersey shore for several hours while he told me lots of stories and showed me his momentos. They were both great guys.

Then as I was doing further background research with others and the story took a really strange angle that I'd love to share, but I'm not sure it's journalistically ethical insofar as it was a they-said/they-said kind of situation, and ultimately there was no evidence of what some people were claiming in writing or anywhere else. The issue escalated up through the editorial chain and in the end it was decided to just drop the article altogether. I'm still not sure how I feel about it.


Also, I agree with the scientists who recently wrote a letter to the Nobel Foundation advocating for additional prizes in Environmental Science and in Public Health. A while their at it, they ought to finally include one for mathematics as well.

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