When I was young, the Oscars had an air of naffness, and the likes of the Golden Globes or Emmys even more so. One of the many many ways internet culture has failed to live up to its utopian hype is the glorification of these sort of jamborees into moments of Great Cultural Significance, endlessly teased over by scolding columnists determined to weed out wrong think even about a glorified trade awards ceremony.
The Nobel Prizes haven’t quite reached the same point – indeed, as I wrote here before, their cultural impact may be somewhat diminished – but nevertheless, they are also subject to a strained search for important messages. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017 was awarded jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”
Here is Robash’s lecture (with 5250 YouTube views) which is a good place to start a consideration of circadian rhythms:
And here is Young’s, which ties it all back to human circadian rhythms (just over 4000 views):
Here is Hall’s Nobel lecture, I note he is wearing a Brawndo hat from the film “Idiocracy”. I also note this video has just over 6000 views on YouTube (the Brawndo ad linked to above has over 3 million) Then again, it is a little hard going – Hall is not as funny as he thinks he is… and while there is some interest in his anecdotal style of various prior Drosophilia researchers it is not that effective an entry into this world (so while it is the first lecture given and includes the overall introduction, I have left it to last):
Slides of Robash’s and Young’s lectures are available on the Nobel site. Rather endearingly, they are basic PowerPoint slides replete with credits for everyone in the lab.
So there you go. 3 Nobel lectures on a subject of direct relevance to all our lives have a grand total of less than 15000 views on YouTube. I could easily find some ephemeral/trashy/obscene video with several multiples, but what is the point?
In the New Yorker, Jerome Groopman identified the “real message” of the prize as a rebuke to those who ignore or underfund basic science (in fairness his piece is also a decent introduction to this research). While there may be some merit to this, it strikes me as more likely that the Academy recognised scientific work of genuine merit and enduring relevance.
And Groopman’s piece was one of the only ones I could find online that discussed the science and the issues related in some context (even though it was one I found slightly suspect) – most of the others essentially recycled the press releases from the Nobel Foundation and the US National Science Foundation
In my post “Why isn’t William C Campbell more famous in Ireland?” I discussed an excellent piece by Declan Fahy on “the fragile culture of Irish science journalism”. One wonders if this fragility is perhaps not only an Irish phenomenon.