Frances H Arnold and Donna Strickland’s Nobel prize success is further proof that science needs women

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Thursday 04 October 2018 14:57
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Frances H Arnold and her colleagues won the award for their work on enzymes and antibodies
Frances H Arnold and her colleagues won the award for their work on enzymes and antibodies

I was glad to see that a woman, Frances H Arnold of Caltech, is part of the team who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and that another woman, Donna Strickland, has likewise won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Indeed, only one person in the history of the world has ever won the Nobel prize in both physics and chemistry and set a unique precedence, and that person – Marie Sklodowska Curie – basically gave her life for science, as her groundbreaking research led to her death through cancer.

A man has never achieved this unparalleled feat. Therefore, it renders as nonsense the recent remark by Cern scientist Alessandro Strumia that “physics was built by men”.

It is a good thing therefore that women over the past 150 years have come out of the dark ages where only men were thought to have a brain. If we are to save the planet from ourselves, chauvinistic values should have no place in the ever evolving future high-technology world of this century and beyond. The sooner male scientists accept this, the better it will be for science and also for humankind’s ultimate destiny and very survival.

Dr David Hill
CEO, World Innovation Foundation

Alternative anthems for Theresa May

The embarrassing entrance at the Tory conference by Theresa May made me think of these lines from a famous song:

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow don’t be alarmed now, it’s just a spring clean for the May queen.

“Yes there are two paths you can go by but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Stephen Brand
Aylesbury

I would have thought Abba’s “Waterloo” rather than “Dancing Queen” more appropriate for our prime minister.

Eric V Evans
Somerset

Donald Trump’s taxes

I have no idea whether President Trump received lots of money from his parents or whether there was tax fraud in relation to valuations, and the statement from his lawyer, Charles Harder, has confused me even more.

The statement was in relation to material published in The New York Times, a paper that people generally believe to be completely honest and accurate.

His statement included claims like, “the facts upon which the Times bases its allegations are extremely inaccurate”, and this, like many from the White House, is jumbled, confusing and perhaps self-contradictory.

An examination of the points is worth considering starting with “the facts”, as facts are facts, and therefore correct statements, or at least they used to be. Is it too simplistic today to say something is inaccurate rather than quantify how inaccurate they are?

There is also some room to reinterpret this as its says their basis was wrong but the suggestions could be confirmed with fuller disclosures.

If it’s wrong, and I repeat – I don’t know, the president should release the old tax records and sue them for millions and an apology. Leaders should be the most open people in their countries and be willing to face their accusers openly. Silence adds nothing to the discussion.

Dennis Fitzgerald
Melbourne

The only way is a Final Say

The result of the party conference season has been to make it more likely there will be a second referendum on leaving the EU. It’s certainly difficult to exaggerate the unattractiveness of the two main Brexit options.

The hard version will involve social and economic catastrophe; the soft one will perhaps save the economy but it will leave us as a “vassal state” of the EU, having to accept its rules but unable to influence them.

With both main parties bitterly divided, it would be sensible to allow the electorate the option of forgetting the whole sorry idea now the truly horrendous consequences of any type of Brexit have become clear.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews

A new European model

Comparisons have been made, by Jeremy Hunt and others, between the EU and the former Soviet Union. They are far-fetched in terms of the harshness of the regime, but not so far-fetched in terms of the political organisation: an elite of unelected leaders committed to a particular ideology, and backed up by an all powerful civil administration. The parallels are obvious.

The British position is one of dissent from the prevailing ideology of a state of Europe. The Polish position is more pragmatic: Poland is in the EU for the money, but resents what it sees as the EU’s interference in domestic matters; it also has the good sense to align itself with other nations who see things the same way – the Visegrad Four.

The 20th century reveals the dangers of welding together nations against their will since the outcome leads to an explosion of old enmities. This happened when Yugoslavia burst at the seams and into war, and when Czechoslovakia divided, peacefully, into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Forced unity that is resented breeds nationalism and it is boiling beneath the skin of Europe.

There is a case for a different kind of Europe: cooperative, without trade barriers, supportive, flexible, open, but without the present legislative functions of what some might call its politburo style of administration.

Without this vision of a new Europe the EU is likely to come to a sticky end. Why isn’t a single European leader making the case for this new European model?

LJ Atterbury
Pila, Poland

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