How to win a Nobel Prize?

How to win a Nobel Prize?

 

Qu: How do I win a Nobel Prize Qki sir?

Qki: Before answering that question let me tell you something else.

During our last discussion (recall our “Why is table called a table?” discussion) I told you that it’s very difficult to do proper experiments. Let me now explain this point with an example.

Let’s say you want to measure volume of water in a glass…it’s easy right? Just pour the water in a measuring container and then read the level at which the water stands. Simple and quick. But not let me bring to your attention the some of the following things that create problem:

  • When you are pouring water it will splash around. Few drops may fall out of the measuring container, few drops may stick towards top edges of container, and few drops may continue to remain sticking to the vessel from which you poured the water in the measuring container. So some amount of water will get lost (Please see Note 1 at the end of this article).
  • When you are holding the vessel containing the water in your hand, the heat from your hand will get transferred to water and some water molecules will evaporate (Please see Note 2 at the end of this article).

A large number of such things can (and will) happen during the course of your experiment if you don’t take care of them. All these events will lead you to measuring and reporting a wrong result. So you see to even measure volume of water correctly you need to take care of so many things.

So you see how difficult it is to do proper experiments…and that’s why there are people who specialize in doing experiments…they are called experimental scientists.

The entire scientific world is made up of two kinds of scientists – experimental scientists (scientists who conduct experiments and validate theories) and theoretical scientists (scientists who look at data gathered from experiments and then close their eyes to imagine reasons as to why particular set of data/observations happened).

Now as we have already shown why imaginations can be wrong many times (recall our example of Sun in “Why is table called a table?” discussion), scientists who validate theories or the experimental scientists are the one only who are given Nobel prizes…theoretical scientist may be given a Nobel Prize along with an experimental scientist and in some cases never given also.

Let me tell you a real story…

Once there were two young people – Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. They were working at Bell Laboratories in USA. Their work involved working a large antenna that belonged to Bell Laboratories. Now the challenge they were facing was that the antenna was receiving a continuous irritating background noise that made it difficult for them to do any work. They did everything they can including cleaning up the instruments, replacing them, etc. But nothing worked. The noise was just not getting eliminated. The time of the day, the direction of antenna, the alterations – nothing mattered – the noise was omnipresent. So they young guys called up Robert Dicke who was working at Princeton University (just 50 odd km away from where Penzias and Wilson were working) and asked his help. Robert Dicke was a physicist of repute and he immediately understood what the young guys have discovered – it was exactly what Dicke was trying to find working with a group of scientists.

In nutshell Penzias and Wilson have discovered a proof that theory called as Big Bang was correct. The noise that they were trying to get rid of was the noise produced by the first light produced after the birth of our Universe. We see it every day – whenever we switch on our TV and when a channel is not received, a very small fraction of that disturbance is due to the same microwave radiation that Penzias and Wilson were trying to get rid of.

(Please see Note 3 at the end of this article.) 

Anyway the point of telling this story is that 1978 Nobel Prize in physics went to Penzias and Wilson though they had no idea of what they discovered. Robert Dicke got probably some claps. Sad for him but that’s what is the importance of experiments.

So if you want a Nobel Prize you have to be an experimental scientist and validate a theory (you may or may not be a theoretical scientist). Once you win a Nobel you will be a very renowned person…and then go and tell the world that a table should be called folda (four legged dead animal)…and you have some chance of getting heard…and probably accepted also…

End comment for readers

Thus a simple question of why table is called so has been used as backdrop in introducing a kid with various topics like:

  • Journey of science
  • What are theories and why they are prone to changes
  • Different states of matter
  • Changes in states of matter
  • Heat and various concepts around it
  • Waves and concepts around it
  • Concepts like surface tension, gravity etc.

While telling these concepts we also tell the kids about the scientists who discovered these concepts/theories and the various experiments that led to such a discovery. As much as possible we don’t drop a theory into a kid’s mind – we make them walk the path of discovery and let them discover the same law implicitly in their minds even if its in a crude simplistic form.

Notes

Note 1

At this point divergence can be done to ask some of the following questions to the kid:

  • Why water splashes around and a block of wood when dropped does not?
  • Why water sticks to a vessel and a block of wood does not?
  • Why water flows from one container to another and a block of wood does not?

etc. etc.

All of these questions will become starting points for discussing concepts like various states of matter and their properties, surface tension, gravity, etc.

Note 2

At this point divergence can be done to ask some of the following questions to the kid (sometimes in our experinece we have seen kids themselves asking some of these questions):

  • What is heat?
  • Why sometimes you find air as hot and sometimes as cold?
  • What is evaporation?
  • What is condensation?
  • Why evaporation leads to cooling?

etc. etc.

All these questions will become starting points for discussing concepts like heat, changes in states of matter, why heat creates changes in states of matter, etc.

Note 3

At this point it’s possible to latch onto word like antenna, microwave radiation, etc. and expand the topics to teach kids something about electromagnetic waves and the entire range of electromagnetic waves. In explaining waves concepts such as amplitude, frequency, and speed of wave can be introduced. Kids can also be taught difference between sound wave and electromagnetic waves. The depth up to which we go during our interaction with kids is completely depended on kid’s curiosity. Also the choice of examples to introduce a topic is completely dependent on the age and previous learning experinece of the kid.

 

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DreamNobel is an education initiative to teach Science subjects to kids in a way that “original & independent” thinking becomes an integral part of their personality. We have developed a unique and revolutionary course whereby a kid can be taught broadly all the Science subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Biology & Geology) that she will learn during her entire schooling life, through a unique story and rationalization led pedagogy.

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