November 17th, 2006


Scientist Decay-rate

George Wetherill died in July. He was responsible for coming up with an accurate way of determining the age of rocks by measuring ratios of various isotopes stemming from the radioactive decay of elements in the rocks. For a time, he was at UCLA as chairman of the Department of Planetary and Space Sciences (where, decades later, I was partially employed for a time). A detail in the Science obituary is quite interesting -- he was apparently thrown out of his church for his work.
Cue standard creationist pun involving the age of rocks and the rock of ages.

Fortunately, unlike Galileo's case, being tossed out of the Lutheran (Missouri Synod) carries pretty minimal penalties... like missing out on Abigail Plunk's potato salad at the annual church picnic.

In any case, probably the confluence of an obituary and radioactive decay made me consider that the number of living Nobelists must reach a steady state. Roughly speaking, new Nobellists must be made at the same rate that they die. Obviously, at the start, the number of Nobellists increased from zero. And as more prizes have been shared in recent years, this must have swelled the number of Nobellists. Perhaps healthcare benefits or a shift in the average age of awardees may have helped to extend lives and decrease (or delay) the death rate of Nobellists. Nevertheless, I hypothesize that a steady-state should be reached.

So let's see how my hypothesis fares with Physics Nobellists from 1995-2004

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Idiocy on Parade! Friday 1PM to 2PM edition

Story 1:
Chicago gets crime-fighting robots. Too bad they're lame (as opposed to super-awesome). But I bring it up because of this sentence: "City officials are touting the arrival of three new robots the city will use to diffuse bombs."
Man, $135K for three robots and all they can do is use a Photoshop filter? Government waste is just appalling.

Story 2:
"At first, [the history teacher] denied he mixed in religion with his history lesson, and the adults in the room appeared to be buying it, [the student] said. But then he reached into his backpack and produced the CDs."

[Audio]: "...if you reject that, you belong in hell ... dinosaurs were on Noah's ark..."


(But it's a feel-good story for both sides of the issue, since the student is being ostracized.)