file photo dated Friday, April 17, 2015, a national library employee
shows the gold Nobel Prize medal awarded to the late novelist Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, in Bogota, Colombia. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Norway (AP) - Nobel Prizes are the most
prestigious awards on the planet but the aura of this year’s
announcements has been dulled by questions over why so few women have
entered the pantheon, particularly in the sciences.
The march of Nobel
announcements began last Monday with the physiology/medicine prize.
Since the first
prizes were awarded in 1901, 892 individuals have received one, but just
48 of them have been women. Thirty of those women won either the
literature or peace prize, highlighting the wide gender gap in the
laureates for physics, chemistry and physiology/medicine. In addition,
only one woman has won for the economics prize, which is not technically
a Nobel but is associated with the prizes.
Some of the
disparity likely can be attributed to underlying structural reasons,
such as the low representation of women in high-level science. The
American Institute of Physics, for example, says in 2014, only 10
percent of full physics professorships were held by women.
But critics suggest
that gender bias pervades the process of nominations, which come largely
from tenured professors.
“The problem is the
whole nomination process, you have these tenured professors who feel
like they are untouchable. They can get away with everything from sexual
harassment to micro-aggressions like assuming the woman in the room will
take the notes, or be leaving soon to have babies,” said Anne-Marie
Imafidon, the head of Stemettes, a British group that encourages girls
and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering
“It’s little wonder
that these people aren’t putting women forward for nominations. We need
to be better at telling the stories of the women in science who are
doing good things and actually getting recognition,” she said.
Powerful men taking
credit for the ideas and elbow grease of their female colleagues was
turned on its head in 1903 when Pierre Curie made it clear he would not
accept the physics prize unless his wife and fellow researcher Marie
Curie was jointly honored. She was the first female winner of any Nobel
prize, but only one other woman has won the physics prize since then.
More than 70 years
later, Jocelyn Bell, a post-graduate student at Cambridge, was
overlooked for the physics prize despite her crucial contribution to the
discovery of pulsars. Her supervisor, Antony Hewish, took all of the
Brian Keating, a
physics professor at the University of California San Diego and author
of the book “Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and
the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor,” says the Nobel Foundation should
lift its restrictions on re-awarding for a breakthrough if an individual
has been overlooked. He also says posthumous awards also should be
considered and there should be no restriction on the number of
individuals who can share a prize. Today the limit is three people for
would go a long way to addressing the injustice that so few of the
brilliant women who have contributed so much to science through the
years have been overlooked,” he said.
Keating fears that
simply accepting the disparity as structural will seriously harm the
prestige of all the Nobel prizes.
“I think with the
Hollywood #MeToo movement, it has already happened in the film prizes.
It has happened with the literature prize. There is no fundamental law
of nature that the Nobel science prizes will continue to be seen as the
highest accolade,” he said.
This year’s absence
of a Nobel Literature prize, which has been won by 14 women, puts an
even sharper focus on the gender gap in science prizes.
Academy, which awards the literature prize, said it would not pick a
winner this year after sex abuse allegations and financial crimes
scandals rocked the secretive panel, sharply dividing its 18 members,
who are appointed for life. Seven members quit or distanced themselves
from academy. Its permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, said the academy
wanted “to commit time to recovering public confidence.”
The academy plans
to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize next year - but even
that is not guaranteed. The head of the Nobel Foundation, Lars
Heikensten, has warned that if the Swedish Academy does not resolve its
tarnished image another group could be chosen to select the literature
prize each year.
Stung by criticism
about the diversity gap between former prize winners, the Nobel
Foundation has asked that the science awarding panels for 2019 ask
nominators to consider their own biases in the thousands of letters they
send to solicit Nobel nominations.
“I am eager to see
more nominations for women so they can be considered,” said Goran
Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and
vice chairman of the Nobel Foundation. “We have written to nominators
asking them to make sure they do not miss women or people of other
ethnicities or nationalities in their nominations. We hope this will
make a difference for 2019.”
It’s not the first
time that Nobel officials have sought diversity. In his 1895 will, prize
founder Alfred Nobel wrote: “It is my express wish that in the awarding
of the prizes no consideration shall be given to national affiliations
of any kind, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he
be Scandinavian or not.”
Even so, the prizes
remained overwhelmingly white and male for most of their existence.
For the first 70
years, the peace prize skewed heavily toward Western white men, with
just two of the 59 prizes awarded to individuals or institutions based
outside Europe or North America. Only three of the winners in that
period were female.
The 1973 peace
prize shared by North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho and American Henry Kissinger
widened the horizons - since then more than half the Nobel Peace prizes
have gone to African or Asian individuals or institutions.
Since 2000, six
women have won the peace prize.
After the medicine
prize was awarded on Monday, Oct. 1, the Royal Swedish Academy of
Sciences announced the Nobel in physics on Tuesday the 2nd,
and in chemistry on Wednesday the 3rd, while the Nobel Peace Prize was
awarded last Friday by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. On Oct. 8,
Sweden’s Central Bank announced the winner of the economics prize, given
in honor of Alfred Nobel.
founder and chief executive Elon Musk, left, shakes hands with Japanese
billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, after announcing him as the first
private passenger on a trip around the moon, in Hawthorne, Calif. (AP
billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, looks at a monitor showing the BFR
spacecraft. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles (AP)
- After announcing that he’ll take the
first-ever commercial rocket trip around the moon, Yusaku Maezawa said
he wants company for the weeklong journey. The Japanese billionaire said
he plans to invite six to eight artists, architects, designers and other
creative people to join him on board the SpaceX rocket “to inspire the
dreamer in all of us.”
The Big Falcon
Rocket is scheduled to make the trip in 2023, SpaceX founder Elon Musk
announced at an event Monday at its headquarters near Los Angeles.
Maezawa, 42, said
he wants his guests for the lunar orbit “to see the moon up close, and
the Earth in full view, and create work to reflect their experience.”
Musk said the
entrepreneur, founder of Japan’s largest retail website and one of the
country’s richest people, will pay “a lot of money” for the trip but
declined to disclose the exact amount. Maezawa came to SpaceX with the
idea for the group flight, Musk said.
“I did not want to
have such a fantastic experience by myself,” said Maezawa, wearing a
blue sports jacket over a white T-shirt printed with a work by the late
painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. He said he often mused about what artists
like Basquiat or Andy Warhol might have come up with if they’d traveled
“I wish to create
amazing works of art for humankind,” Maezawa said.
immediately say who will be on his guest list for the spaceflight, but
in response to a question from a reporter he said he’d consider inviting
“Maybe we’ll both
be on it,” Musk said with a smile.
Musk said the BFR
is still in development and will make several unmanned test launches
before it takes on passengers. The reusable 118-meter (387-foot) rocket
will have its own dedicated passenger ship, and its development is
expected to cost about $5 billion, Musk said.
The mission will
not involve a lunar landing.
distance from Earth to the moon is about 237,685 miles (382,500
kilometers). Astronauts last visited the moon during NASA’s Apollo
program. Twenty-four men flew to the moon from 1968 through 1972, and
half of them made it to the lunar surface.
NASA is planning
its own lunar flyby with a crew around 2023. The space agency also aims
to build a staffed gateway near the moon during the 2020s. The outpost
would serve as a stepping-off point for the lunar surface, Mars and
Maezawa, a former
musician, founded the retail firm Start Today in 1998 and built it into
one of Japan’s most successful companies. In 2012, he started the
Tokyo-based Contemporary Art Foundation to support young artists. He
made headlines in 2016 when he paid more than $57 million at auction for
an untitled work by Basquiat. A year later, he paid more than $110
million auction for another piece by the same artist.
Musk outlined a
somewhat different SpaceX lunar mission last year. He said then that two
people who know each other approached the company about a weeklong
flight to the moon and back. Musk did not name the clients last year or
say how much they would pay.
mission would have used a Falcon Heavy rocket - the most powerful rocket
flying today - and a Dragon crew capsule similar to the one NASA
astronauts will use to fly to the International Space Station as early
as next year.
The era of space
tourism began in 2001, when California businessman Dennis Tito paid for
a journey on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. The
trip was organized by the Virginia-based company Space Adventures, which
has since sent several more paying customers on spaceflights.
SpaceX already has
a long list of firsts, with its sights ultimately set on Mars. It became
the first private company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and safely
return it to Earth in 2010, and the first commercial enterprise to fly
to the space station in 2012 on a supply mission.
have recently been overshadowed by his behavior and the struggles of his
Tesla electric car company to deliver.
criticized analysts during a Tesla earnings conference call, took a hit
off an apparent marijuana-tobacco joint during a podcast interview, and
tweeted that he had funding to take Tesla private but then announced the
deal was off.
executives announced departures from Tesla. Last month he told the New
York Times he was overwhelmed by job stress.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket with the NASA Ice, Cloud
and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) onboard is seen shortly after
the mobile service tower at SLC-2 was rolled back, Saturday, Sept. 15,
2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The ICESat-2 mission will
measure the changing height of Earth’s ice. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Force Base, Calif. (AP) - A NASA satellite
designed to precisely measure changes in Earth’s ice sheets, glaciers,
sea ice and vegetation was launched into polar orbit from California
A Delta 2 rocket
carrying ICESat-2 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 6:02 a.m.
and headed over the Pacific Ocean.
NASA Earth Science
Division director Michael Freilich says that the mission in particular will
advance knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica
contribute to sea level rise.
The melt from those ice
sheets alone has raised global sea level by more than 1 millimeter (0.04
inch) a year recently, according to NASA.
The mission is a
successor to the original Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite that
operated from 2003 to 2009. Measurements continued since then with airborne
instruments in NASA’s Operation Ice Bridge.
Built by Northrop
Grumman, ICESat-2 carries a single instrument, a laser altimeter that
measures height by determining how long it takes photons to travel from the
spacecraft to Earth and back. According to NASA, it will collect more than
250 times as many measurements as the first ICESat.
The laser is designed
to fire 10,000 times per second, divided into six beams of hundreds of
trillions of photons. The round trip is timed to a billionth of a second.
In addition to ice, the
satellite’s other measurements, such as the tops of trees, snow and river
heights, may help with research into the amount of carbon stored in forests,
flood and drought planning and wildfire behavior, among other uses.
The launch was the last
for a Delta 2 rocket, United Launch Alliance said.
The first Delta 2
lifted off on Feb. 14, 1989, and since then it has been the launch vehicle
for Global Positioning System orbiters, Earth observing and commercial
satellites, and interplanetary missions including the twin Mars rovers
Spirit and Opportunity.