Prize Booby

What a nice day! I walked out to get into my motorcar to go to gym and discovered that snow, that wonderful special form of solid dihydrogen oxide precipitation, was falling. Not in great numbers or density mind, the flakes were fat and discorporant, melting even from the minor heat of the windows of my conveyance, but observing them was enjoyable, and safe, given the density of traffic at that time of morning.

The gym was blessedly empty. When I departed the number present decreased from eight to seven, with two being staff. And one of the staff and I opened. Absences may be attributed to spring break from shule even if that is inaccurate and it does not feel at all like spring. One of my colleagues, Mass Momentum, using the occasion as an excuse is on the gulf coast of Alibam and righteously shrewing about climate change and that he can’t do anything except read and shiver – indoors. But he does have a reason, in his senior dotage he has become a conservative politician with all of the perversions of mind and body therein appertaining.

Speaking of which, I noted an article [Link] in the economist about the proliferation of scientist prizes. This is the practice, started by Nobel, of awarding money to some scientist for some past “discovery”. The system is completely arbitrary, irrational, and often political or social. The selection authority is always either a political organization or a committee of past awardees.

I have to admit to a cynical outlook on such. I rather discount that these prizes do any real good. Anyone motivated by such is in science for the wrong reasons. The selectees are almost always past their prime so the money does little good other than perpetuating whatever they have been doing. It does assure that they will enjoy continued employment at some academic institution who wants them for prestige and cash flow. Universities are always vocal to prospective students of their prize winners that the students will never have class from.

Of course the bogs accord these folk recognition, celebrityhood comparable to a minor player on a mediocre soap opera. But the problem is the selections. Some, a few, are righteous selections, scientists who have done good, perhaps great, science and unquestionably deserve the recognition. But most selected are in the pack and one has to wonder why some better – patently – were passed over and how these were pulled from the mob to momentary eliteness?

Also, based on my experiences and those of colleagues, I view discovery in science to be a mixture of Whewellism – the boy scout attitude of the Victorian age that the intellectually prepared scientist triumphs – and plain old ordinary random chance, in about equal parts. So the recognition is more about recognizing the winner of a lottery than a Mentor of Arisia.

Will my disapproval stop it? Absolutely not. It is the nature of humans that we must exalt some of our number over the rest to satisfy some inner need for such. That’s why we used to have kings and autarchs and they could make prize giving extravagant and crippling.

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