The Big Three Astro-Nano-Neuro
The Next Nobel?
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Just look at this forums most popular threads...
They primarily are related to Astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.
These things have been a near obsession for Aaron and myself for decades, and more recently for Jillian-the founders of ESM.
I was pondering these thoughts earlier this week, and then today (PATHS synchronicity-mind time travel module [neuroscience]) I just "happened" to "coincidentally" pick up the August 2, 2007 issue of Time magazine and just "happened" to "coincidentally" turn to the following article:
The Next Nobel?
As an active participant in this forum, you can know that you are part of something BIG that is just at the embryonic stages. This world is going to be changing very fast over the next few years, and it is going to revolve around the very subjects we discuss and work with here in this forum!
I have pasted the entire article below, in case it becomes unavailable at the Time Magazine website.
Ask the average person who Fred Kavli is, and you'll probably draw a blank stare. Pose the same question to the scientific community, however, and you're likely to get an admiring smile. Since 2000, when the Norwegian-born engineer started a foundation that bears his name, the upstart philanthropist has funded work in several critical scientific areas and virtually created a new class system among research universities: those that can boast of having a Kavli Institute and those that wish they could.
So far, the list of beneficiaries is small--climbing to 15 this month--but it includes some of the most prestigious schools on the planet: Harvard, Caltech, MIT, Cambridge. And the number of research fields the institutes address is even smaller. Universities can get the $7.5 million gifts only if the funding goes to one of three areas: astrophysics, nanoscience or neuroscience. Why this particular trio? Because that's what Kavli happens to be interested in. "The way he sometimes puts it," says David Gross, a Nobel prizewinner in physics and director of the first Kavli Institute, at the University of California at Santa Barbara, "is that he's fascinated by the very biggest, the very smallest and the thing you need to understand both of them--the human brain."
It may seem odd for a hard-nosed industrialist to gravitate toward such esoteric fields--imagine Henry Ford fixating on the origin of the universe--but Kavli, 79, says he got the bug long before he made his fortune in the U.S. aerospace industry. He grew up on a farm in rural Norway, where he remembers being awestruck by the night sky. "There was no city nearby," he says, so when the aurora borealis lit up, "the sky was completely inflamed." Kavli's fascination with the universe deepened in college after World War II when his physics teacher relayed details from a friend, the legendary quantum theorist Niels Bohr, of the latest discoveries about the atom, which was just beginning to yield its secrets.
Kavli got an engineering degree and made his way to Southern California. In 1958 he started his own aerospace firm--Kavlico's first contract was with General Electric, designing feedback sensors for an atomic-powered airplane--and soon began investing, with extraordinary success, in California real estate. When he sold the company in 2000--just before the Internet-stock bubble burst--the undisclosed selling price was big enough to allow Kavli to return to the great unanswered questions of basic science that had long fascinated him. He wanted to endow major prizes for research in his astro-nano-neuro triad, the fields he thinks will produce the most exciting discoveries in the coming centuries. In particular, he wanted to finance early-stage research, the bold ideas that may be many years away from producing tangible results. Quantum physics, for example, seemed totally impractical until engineers used its findings to design the tiny chips that power today's beloved consumer gadgets. Amid funding cuts for basic research, Kavli wanted to help produce knowledge about the world that could ultimately make it a better place. But before he could get started, he needed to make his name known in scientific circles. "It really wouldn't do," he says, "to call people up and offer a Kavli Prize and have them say, 'What's that?'"
Kavli sought the advice of Gross, who heads U.C. Santa Barbara's renowned Institute of Theoretical Physics, about endowing professorships. "I convinced him that was an expensive and relatively ineffective way to make an impact," says Gross. They hit on the idea of establishing Kavli Institutes instead, with the first grant going to Gross's school, where much of it was used to build a badly needed wing to house the growing particle-physics institute.
Now that élite academia is counting on Kavli's institutional largesse, he's ready to rev up individual researchers with high-profile prizes. Kavli inked an agreement with the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters to start in fall 2008 giving three awards, worth $1 million apiece, every two years.
He's willing to acknowledge one or two similarities with another Scandinavian prize giver. Kavli even worked briefly as an explosives engineer, Alfred Nobel's area of tycoonery. But Kavli insists his prizes are different. For one thing, he doesn't want them to be end-of-career accolades, as Nobels often are. Kavli wants his awards to propel less well-known scientists, and Nobel winners will be explicitly excluded from consideration.
But for all his efforts to distinguish his awards from that other guy's, Kavli wouldn't mind borrowing a little pomp and circumstance. "When I received the Nobel Prize in 2004," says Gross, "I brought Fred to Stockholm as my guest. He sat there during the ceremony, furiously scribbling notes." Maybe the King of Norway will start personally handing out the Kavli awards. But with the King or without, these new prizes and institutes are likely to make such a splash that it won't be long before the most important man in science you've never heard of becomes a household name.