Nine Nobelists on the big problems
Saw a good DVD this evening, after what seemed like several weeks where all the worst things were unfolding faster and faster and I was looking for something not quite so grim as the current headlines.
Nobelity is worth a look. Two ideas of special note for Gristies.
The film starts off with a discussion with physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas, whose Nobel was for figuring out the electroweak force that unified two of the four fundamental forces in nature. He talks about (among other things) climate change. In a very matter of fact way, he makes a hugely important point that pertains to all the so-called skeptics (paraphrase):
Asking for proof is putting the burden on the wrong party; given what we know, the obligation to produce evidence is on the people who are saying that doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere isn’t caused by man or won’t be a problem.
Next up was the late Rick Smalley, discoverer of "Buckyballs" (Buckministerfullerine), the amazing, previously unknown form of carbon consisting of 60 carbon atoms in what for all the world looks like a geodesic dome pattern. Smalley talked about asking lecture audiences to name the 10 top problems of the world — and always having the people come up with roughly the same list (energy, water, poverty, war/terrorism, pollution, etc.).
He talked about how, if you could solve the energy piece, you could imagine finding a reasonable solution to at least five of the other nine top world problems — but if you didn’t solve the energy piece, it was difficult to imagine solving any of the others.
He also said (paraphrase) that, if we continue to depend on fossil fuels as the basis of wealth for the rest of this century, "it’s going to be a pretty unpleasant century." He also mentions peak oil directly and says, "Some of us think it’s happening now."
Other people interviewed include Jody Williams (Peace Prize for work against landmines), Wangari Maathai (the Kenyan PhD who was the first female doctorate in sub-Saharan east/central Africa and who founded the Greenbelt Movement), Amartya Sen of India, Desmond Tutu of S. Africa, and three others.
A visually beautiful movie and a good antidote to the frightening realities of the present.