Friday, October 30, 2009

A city in 140 symbols: Prague

Prague is a charming old city with strikingly large historical center. The hilly landscape favors enjoying magnificent panoramic views.

Monday, October 12, 2009

John Fenn and age discrimination

In European academia there is a mandatory retirement age: if a university professor becomes older than 65-68 years (depending on country), he cannot hold a position anymore. This was also the case in the US some 30 years ago, when the Age Discrimination in Employment Act still allowed for the mandatory dismissal of tenured workers.

A few days ago I was told a fascinating story of John Bennett Fenn. He was working at Yale for a quarter of a century, until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1987. After a while, the law was changed to fight the age discrimination, and Fenn became officially allowed to get a job. By that time his ex-position at Yale was still vacant, and he applied for it. Believe you or not, he didn't get it.

Eventually Fenn joined Virginia Commonwealth University in 1994, where he started working on the Electrospray ionization technique, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in 2002. John Fenn was 85 by that time and he still remains the oldest Nobel Laureate in Chemistry.

Yale University claimed that Fenn was working on electrospray ionization while still holding a position there. After submitting a lawsuit against Fenn, Yale was awarded over one million dollars and partial patent rights to the technique.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A city in 140 symbols: Vienna

Vienna impresses with its calm old-fashioned style. No haste, no rush, just enjoy the legendary chocolate cake and astounding coffee.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The moronometer

There is a rumor that a renowned Soviet physicist Arkady Migdal thought up a device dubbed "the moronometer". That was a spool of thread placed in a breast pocket of the jacked in such a way that the thread slightly sticks out. Then Migdal was hanging around and meeting people. During such sporadic conversations a company exclaimed "Hey, you've got a thread there!", and tried to detach it, in fact unreeling the spool. Some folks kept pulling the lengthening thread for a while.

According to Migdal, the company's silliness is proportional to the resulting length of the thread.

Reference (Russian)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A city in 140 symbols: Luxembourg

Luxembourg: the admirable capital of the last Grand Duchy in the world. Marvelous architecture is spiced by their own outstanding language.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Journal of Chemical Physics

I'm reading a terrific review by Dudley Herschbach. In the introduction he mentions, that one of the reasons to establish the Journal of Chemical Physics in 1933 was the impossibility to publish any pure theory in the Journal of Physical Chemistry by that time. This remained the case for another two decades or so, unless plenty of acknowledged theoretical results emerged.

Nowadays pure theory is almost never published in science magazines, such as Nature or Science. We definitely need to found another one.