Standing in my office 25 years ago was an unknown, newly minted astronomer with a half-smile on her face. She had come with an outrageous request—really a demand—that my team modify our exhaustively tested software to make one of our most important and in-demand scientific instruments do something it had never been designed for, and risk breaking it. All to carry out an experiment that was basically a waste of time and couldn’t be done—to prove that a massive black hole lurked at the center of our Milky Way.
Nutrition is a conundrum in developing countries. The couple argue that things that make life less boring are a priority for the poor – a TV set, something special to eat, for example. In one location in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, where almost no one had a TV, they found the extremely poor spent 14% of their budget on festivals. By contrast, in Nicaragua, where 56% of the poor households in villages had a radio and 21% owned a TV, very few households reported spending anything on festivals.
Their work also suggested governments and international institutions need to completely rethink food policy. Providing more food grains- which most food security programmes do – would often not work and help little for the poor to eat better because the main problem was not calories, but other nutrients.
A well deserved Nobel for Thaler.
Mr Thaler advanced the field in two important ways. He campaigned for behavioural economics to be taken seriously within the economics profession. He also brought it into the policy environment with his book Nudge (co-authored with Cass Sunstein) and his support for behavioural policy units in the White House and 10 Downing Street.
Within the profession, Mr Thaler found a pulpit in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, an academic journal supplied to all members of the American Economic Association. His Anomalies column was witty and sharply reasoned, highlighting strange features of the economic and financial world that standard economic theory could not explain, and rigorously debunking unconvincing attempts at rationalisation.
The article raises some pertinent questions regarding collaboration in science and the restriction to award a maximum of 3 only.
When publishing any scientific article, there is a basic conundrum – someone must receive the prime place on the list of authors. In some fields, authors covet the first place; in others, the last place. And the benefits of being the primary author go far beyond a single article. There’s a phenomenon called the “Matthew Effect” in science, referring to the observation in the Gospel of Matthew that the “rich get richer.” The noted author of an article is much more likely to receive attention into the future.
Today’s needull is rare, very rare. A Noble laureate writing about another laureate. Amartya Sen writes about Rabindranath Tagore, India’s first Nobel laureate.
The profoundly original writer, whose elegant prose and magical poetry Bengali readers know well, is not the sermonizing spiritual guru admired – and then rejected – in London. Tagore was not only an immensely versatile poet; he was also a great short story writer, novelist, playwright, essayist, and composer of songs, as well as a talented painter whose pictures, with their mixture of representation and abstraction, are only now beginning to receive the acclaim that they have long deserved. His essays, moreover, ranged over literature, politics, culture, social change, religious beliefs, philosophical analysis, international relations, and much else. The coincidence of the fiftieth anniversary of Indian independence with the publication of a selection of Tagore’s letters by Cambridge University Press 3, brought Tagore’s ideas and reflections to the fore, which makes it important to examine what kind of leadership in thought and understanding he provided in the Indian subcontinent in the first half of this century.
Today’s needull is the acceptance speech of Bob Dylan for his Nobel Prize in Literature. Bob Dylan talks about Moby Dick and All Quiet on the Western Front in detail. He talks about what he saw in these novels and how they influenced him. Reading this speech, I want to give yet another shot at reading Moby Dick.
That’s what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”
There has been a lot of talk about Bob Dylan winning a Nobel for literature. The voices have got shriller since he said he will not be able to make it to the ceremony. Here is another great writer, Stephen King, speaking up on why Dylan deserved the prize:
People complaining about his Nobel either don’t understand or it’s just a plain old case of sour grapes. I’ve seen several literary writers who have turned their noses up at the Dylan thing, like Gary Shteyngart. Well, I’ve got news for you, Gary: There are a lot of deserving writers who have never gotten the Nobel Prize. And Gary Shteyngart will probably be one of them. That’s no reflection on his work. You have to rise to the level of a Faulkner if you’re an American.
My kids listen to Dylan, and so do my grandkids. That’s three generations. That’s real longevity and quality. Most people in pop music are like moths around a bug light; they circle for a while and then there’s a bright flash and they’re gone. Not Dylan.
Just the other day, I had posted a needull on how Bob Dylan was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Seems like The Swedish Academy has been unable to contact Bob Dylan about his receipt of the honor. So, what happens now?
So, Bob Dylan can ignore the academy all he likes, but the award is still listed in his name. Whether or not he makes an appearance at the ceremony, and at which we will be invited to give a lecture, he will always be known as the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature.
So, Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Today’s needull is about that exactly.
Examining prize criteria, I learned that Alfred Nobel’s 1895 will specified that in literature the work must be “the most outstanding . . . of an idealistic tendency,” and that “during the preceding year” the honoree must “have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Could as much be said about Dylan’s lyrics? Can an icon of popular culture, a “song and dance man,” stand shoulder-to-shoulder with literary giants? Bobby Zimmerman alongside Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Gunter Grass?
For a generation raised in conformity, Dylan validated imagination and independence of thought; his work is emblematic of the creativity of the 1960s in the U.S., and has affected others across the globe. Asked in a Der Spiegel interview if growing up in Germany he had an “American Dream,” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer replied, “Not an American Dream, but my very own dream of freedom. That was for me the music of Bob Dylan.”