U Chicago Richard Thaler,Father of behavioural economics, wins Nobel prize

Monday, 9 October, 2017

CBC News, “Richard Thaler wins Nobel Prize in economics

Forbes, “Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize: Lessons For Business Leaders

Forbes, “4 Reasons Richard Thaler Won The Nobel Prize

The Atlantic, “Richard Thaler Wins the Nobel in Economics For Killing Homo Economicus

Slate, “Richard Thaler Wins Economics Nobel for Recognizing People Are Irrational

The Economist (Free Exchange), “Richard Thaler wins the Nobel prize for economic sciences – An economist who recognises that human behaviour is not always strictly rational

UChicago Nobel Prize news conference for Richard Thaler (skipping to where Thaler speaks) (~26 mins)

PBS NewsHour, “Economics Nobel winner Thaler shed light on how real people behave”

WaPo, Nobel Prize in Economics announced (skipping to announcement) (~31 mins) Read the rest of this entry »


Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau, Please help free #LiuXiaobo’s wife #LiuXia

Sunday, 16 July, 2017

2017 My two questions to the PM.png

So far Canada has very muted responses to Liu Xiaobo‘s death (on Thursday July 13, 2017) and his wife Liu Xia‘s continual house arrest. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted she is “terribly sad” and issued a strongly worded written statement including the words but, as far as I know, nothing was said in-person on camera by neither Minister Freeland nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself. Here is an excerpt from the written statement (download a PDF file with my highlights and notes),

In particular, my thoughts go to Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, herself a tremendous symbol of courage and poise, who remains under house arrest,” Freeland said. “We continue to call for the release of all political prisoners.

I have, so far, been unable to find any evidence of Canadian reporters asking Trudeau, on camera, about his view of Liu Xiaobo‘s death and his wife Liu Xia‘s continual house arrest. Since Mr. Trudeau was visiting Calgary yesterday for Stampede, I thought I would try my best to ask him a question myself. I thought, on the day of Liu Xiaobo‘s funeral (yesterday, Saturday, July 15), it was the least I could do to pay my deepest respect to Xiaobo and did my small part to try to shine a light on Xia‘s continual house arrest and get the PM to do more help free her.

Here is a video of my attempts in asking Trudeau. I have included some additional footage so you can see my questions in context of the crowd.

I asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau my first question as an independent reporter. For my second try, I took off my reporter hat and paid my respect to Liu Xiaobo by making a request to my Prime Minister as a Canadian citizen with Hong Kong heritage. On the sady day of Liu Xiaobo‘s funeral, when I’ve read reports of Chinese government sending secret police to pretend to be his best friends (many were too young to be his “best friends”) at the funeral, reports of his wife forced to burn his body to ashes and spread the ashes into the sea so no one can pay his grave site proper respect, I thought the least I could do to pay my respect to Xiaobo and did my small part was to try to shine a light on freeing Xia from her continual house arrest.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Please help free #LiuXiaobo’s wife #LiuXia!

20170716 Funeral news pix 03 - closeup

Photos credit: HK01 July 15th report, “劉曉波告別式:國保疑混入充數 被監控好友證無一「好友」出席”

20170716 Funeral news pix 04 - spreading ashes at sea

Photo of Liu Xiaobo’s ashes being spread at sea. Photo credit: Tweet of 吾尔开希 Wu’er Kaixi. Here is a Medium article “Murdered but Undefeated” by Wu’er Kaixi that I hope to read soon.

P.S. As reported by Radio Canada International (RCI), Governor General David Johnston was “on a state visit to China from July 10 to 14, accompanied by a large delegation of Canadian politicians and business leaders“.

Further quoting the RCI report, [emphasis added]

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Johnston in Beijing on Thursday, urging both countries to expand cooperation in such areas as trade, law enforcement, technology and culture, and launch negotiations on a free trade agreement at an early date, reported the official Chinese Xinhua agency, which had no mention of Liu’s passing.

Given the Chinese government’s self-proclaimed meaningless “rule-of-law” which lead to the shameful premature death of Mr. Liu Xiaobo and continual house arrest of Liu Xia, any discussion of cooperation in law enforcement is absolutely premature. How can we be sure any cooperation in law enforcement is absolutely Charter of Rights and Freedoms compliant under the current Chinese judicial regime?

July 16, 2017 update: Foreign Affairs Minister @cafreeland tweeted, “Canada continues to call on the Chinese govt to release #LiuXia and offer her safe passage out of China, according to her wishes. #LiuXiaobo” at 5:26 PM – 16 Jul 2017 from London, England

(audio) BBC World Service Newshour, “Ai Weiwei says Western countries failed Liu Xiaobo

Guardian, July 15, “Liu Xiaobo: dissident’s friends angry after hastily arranged sea burial

NYT, July 15, “Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Dissident and Nobel Laureate, Is Cremated

China cremated its only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, on Saturday, but watchful officials allowed only his widow and a few other mourners to bid farewell to the man who was also the country’s most famous political prisoner.

Later in the day, Mr. Liu’s ashes were lowered into the sea in a simple ceremony, ensuring that there would be no grave on land to serve as a magnet for protests against the Communist Party, especially on the traditional tomb-sweeping day every April.

Maclean’s, July 14, “Ottawa’s despicable display in China – Terry Glavin on the death of Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and Canada’s efforts to wine and dine the prisoner’s tormentors

It would be hard to imagine a more obscene display of Canada’s slavish relationship with China’s depraved Communist Party regime: The very moment imprisoned democracy activist and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo died under heavy guard on a hospital bed in the northeast city of Shenyang on Thursday, a beaming Governor General David Johnston was posing for photographs at the opulent Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, shaking hands with Chinese tyrant Xi Jinping, Liu’s jailer, and tormentor.

It was all so very chummy. […]

Liu’s death marks the first time a Nobel peace prize winner has died behind bars since the pacifist Carl von Ossietzky died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1938.

xx


AP – Wife of Chinese Nobel Prize Winner Speaks Out

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

AP - Wife of Chinese Nobel Prize Winner Speaks Out

AP VIDEO: Trembling & crying Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, describes home arrest: via@AWWNeverSorry via@MomoAdalois

note: The largest prison in the world is China. The country.

Sometimes I ask myself what can I or we do? Then I remember bearing witness, publicizing, and remembering these brutalities is one of the ways to remind brutal governments around the world we are watching. And a way to remind our own democratically elected governments that we care. So just do blindly focus on trade and money talk alone.


Roth at Harvard & Shapley at UCLA won 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics

Tuesday, 16 October, 2012

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced earlier today that the 2012 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel will divided equally between Alvin E. Roth (Harvard University) and Lloyd S. Shapley (UCLA) “for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design“.

Roth was interviewed over the phone immediately by the Nobel foundation following the announcement. The audio interview, hearing the answers in the words and tone of the Nobel Laureate  is always interesting fascinating. Here is a brief insightful exchange excerpt from the interview transcript that explains what the this year’s winners won for,

AG [Allegra Grevelius, from Nobelprize.org, the Nobel Prize website]: I understand. Many of Nobelprize.org’s visitors are high school students. How would you explain your prize awarded work in layman’s terms?

AR [Alvin E. Roth]: Well, my prize is about matching and matching is the work that the economy does when deciding for instance which students go to which schools. If they have a choice so high school students in some cities get matched through a choice system where they submit preferences and the schools have requirements perhaps preferences also. And some decisions are made who goes where. And that’s what matching is about. It’s about who gets what. And um, we try to, in the school choice, we try to make it happen in a way that is sufficient but doesn’t, but doesn’t send people to schools they would rather swap with other people if the schools would allow them. Um, and if your students are in high school, they are going to go through many matching markets in their lives. They’re going to get married, they’re going to get jobs, and so, they can think about us then.

AG: Yes, it is very interesting. So your work has a lot of practical applications in our lives, school applications, maybe matching kidney donors and receivers. Are you driven as an economist by these questions by applying your theories to real life?AR: Yes, economics is about real life, so I’m very interested in that.

[…]

AG: Yeah, indeed. As a young person, what inspired you to be an economist?

AR: Well, I didn’t become an economist until rather late in life. My PhD is operational research. I was interested in making things work better and using mathematics to help do that. So operational research is what I studied as an undergraduate and graduate student. The kinds of things that I found myself interested in, trying to understand and trying to make things work better were things that involved people and that meant economics.

Cross posted by me at examiner.com


Video interview Ning Wang – How China Became Capitalist, co-author with Ronald Coase Nobel Laureate in Economics

Thursday, 29 March, 2012

Kempton interview Ning Wang (co-author with Ronald Coase (Nobel Laureate in Economics)) re their new book How China Became Capitalist

I had a great interview with Ning Wang (co-author with Ronald Coase (Nobel Laureate in Economics)) to talk about their new book How China Became Capitalist. (Sample Chapter: You can download a free sample book chapter from Palgrave.)

I appreciate very much professor Wang spending over an hour sharing his insight with me about How China Became Capitalist and answering questions I have related to the Chinese economy. The following are edited clips of the video interview. By the way, feel free to share your comments and questions. When I finish reading the book, I plan to arrange another interview with Ning to talk more. And I may be able to incorporate some of the comments/questions into my next interview.

I have edited the interview into 3 clips with a list of questions/themes. Enjoy.

*** Main interview (see below for list of questions/themes)

Main interview (list of questions/themes)

Q1) Can you talk about the Shenzhen stock exchange in mid-90s where it had 300 offices for people to buy or sell stocks when the stock exchange actually had NO official permission to allow for these trades?!

Q2) China is now the world largest producer of Ph.Ds. Yet Qian Xuesen (錢學森), a most respected Chinese scientist asked a sobering question before his death in 2009 and the question is known as the “Qian Puzzle”.

“Why have Chinese universities not produced a single world-class original thinker or innovative scientist since 1949 ?”

Q3) Quoting the book,

“After more than three decades, the Chinese legal system is still far away from where it can “guarantee the equality of all people before the people’s laws and deny anyone the privilege of being above the law.”” 

This is a tough assessment which I agree with very much. Can you share your thoughts?

Q4) So far I’ve only read parts of the book but I feel more pessimistic of the possibility in seeing China makeing positive changes. I’m feeling more constrained by the history I now know. Can you share your thoughts?

Q5) I love this quote in the book,

“Capitalism with Chinese characteristics is very much like traffic in Chinese cities, chaotic and intimidating for many western tourists. Yet Chinese roads deliver more goods and transport more passengers than those in any other country.

Can you share your thoughts?

*** More in-depth questions

List of more in-depth questions/themes

Q1) China’s “Rule by Law” as opposite to the western practice of “Rule of Law“, that one word (“by” vs “of”) makes the difference of night and day! Can you share your thoughts? (see note 1)

Q2) “Do you see institutional arrangement as something culturally oriented or is base upon universally applicable principles? i.e. if every country is of certain uniqueness or that there exists a ‘one size fits all’ economic system?” [Thanks goes to my economist friend Wallace for this question.]

Q3) What is your and prof. Coase’s main discovery or new understanding gained from the years of research compare to the original understanding in 2008 when you started the research?

Q4) Can you talk about research topics that you and prof. Coase like to see more of? Any interesting puzzles worth further research?

*** Background questions about the book

List of background questions/themes about the book

Q1) Can you talk about the process of writing the book with professor Coase? I understand there was the 2008 Chicago Conference on China’s Market Transformation and then the 2010 Chicago Workshop on the Industrial Structure of Production.

Q2) I understand the book title has a history and may be traced back to 1982! Can you talk about it?

Q3) Given Ning’s Ph.D. wasn’t in Economics, how did he get to write this economics book and meet professor Coase?

How China Became Capitalist by Ronald Coase (Nobel Laureate in Economics) & Ning Wang - published Mar 23, 2012

Thanks: Special thanks to Katy for arranging an advance copy for me to prepare for this interview and for my book review.

Notes:

1) During the writing of this post, I found a link to a book chapter “The Institutional Diffusion of Courts in China: Evidence from Survey Data” (pdf) by Pierre F. Landry, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale University. This book chapter is one of the chapters in the book “Rule By Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes“. While I haven’t read it, it may be something that is worth reading further.

2) On a personal note, I I think How China Became Capitalist is a ground breaking and insightful book that shines a bright light through some foggy misconceptions in our minds. Some of these misconceptions are unfortunately encouraged and repeated by the Chinese government.


How China Became Capitalist by Ronald Coase (Nobel Laureate in Economics) & Ning Wang (pub date: Mar 23)

Tuesday, 20 March, 2012

How China Became Capitalist - Ronald Coase & Ning Wang

October 30th, 2015 update: I forgot to add the video link, here it is: “Video interview Ning Wang – How China Became Capitalist, co-author with Ronald Coase Nobel Laureate in Economics

***

Just received the new book How China Became Capitalist (pub date: March 23) by Ronald Coase (Nobel Laureate in Economics) and Ning Wang. (download a sample chapter from Palgrave) I am reading the book and have planned a video interview with professor Wang. Stay tune for more updates in the near future. (see also Amazon)

*** Reviews of How China Became Capitalist ***

(note: emphasis added)

‘This is a major contribution to the whole literature on economic change as well as on China. Nowhere in all of the literature on economic change and development that I know is there such a detailed study of the fumbling efforts of a society to evolve and particularly one that had as long and as far to go as China did.’ – Douglass C. North, 1993 Nobel laureate in Economics

‘This book is one of the greatest works in economics and in studies of China, not only for today, but for the future.’ – Chenggang Xu, University of Hong Kong

Ronald Coase, now 100 years plus, and Ning Wang have written a compelling and exhaustive commentary about China’s fitful transition from Socialism under Mao to today’s distinctive capitalist economy. No student of China or socialism can afford to miss this volume.’ – Richard Epstein, University of Chicago Law School

Coase finds a nation whose philosophy and policy have reflected the same simple principle – “seeking truth from facts” – that has inspired his own path-breaking analyses of firms, markets and law. A fascinating and exceptionally thought-provoking account of how China, repeatedly seeking more efficient socialism, found itself turning capitalist.‘ – Stephen Littlechild, Emeritus Professor, University of Birmingham, and Fellow, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge


Discussing Euro problem in my 2001 economics class presentation (Benefits and a potential weakness of the Euro)

Wednesday, 26 October, 2011

For Nobel economist Robert Mundell, “Father of the Euro“, it must be heart breaking for him to read headlines like “EU Sets 50% Greek Writedown, $1.4 Trillion in Debt-Crisis Fight” and “Euro zone rescue fund will have firepower of 1 trillion euros“.

In 2001, my MBA economics professor asked us to give a class presentation on something economics related, and I decided to talk about what I knew about Euro (not from the course itself but from readings of my own). I titled my talk Benefits and a potential weakness of the Euro (slides on Google). Here are the few key slides (high res readable version).

2001 presentation re benefits and potential weakness of Euro

The crux of my ideas came from a heated & insightful debate (updated link from internet archive) I read in National Post in Dec 2000 between Nobel economists Robert Mundell and Milton Friedman. The following are quotes from Friedman (emphasis added to original text used in my presentation),

“Bob and my disagreement about the euro is identical with our disagreement about Bretton Woods. The euro encompasses 11 politically independent countries, differing in culture, resources and economic development, and subject to divergent influences. There are bound to develop among them differences about appropriate monetary, fiscal and other policies. Flexible exchange rates offered a way of adjusting to such differences through the market without political conflict. The euro closes that possibility. Bob is confident that other adjustment mechanisms will rapidly develop—greater internal flexibility in prices, regulations, and the like. I hope he is right, but I fear he may not be. If he turns out not to be, the euro will generate more political conflict, not political unity. […]

The members of the euro have accepted restrictions on their fiscal policy, but it remains to be seen whether they will be honored, and if they are not honored, whether the monetary community can enforce them. Those tests are yet to come.

I doubt any of my classmates remember this but it is cool for me to look back and think that I picked an interesting and important topic to discuss even for a simple class presentation. Feel like patting myself on the back a little.


Einstein: His Life and Universe

Saturday, 29 January, 2011

Found this older video presentation by Walter Isaacson, author of the biography “Einstein: His Life and Universe“.


Interview with Nobel Economist Ronald Coase on his 100th birthday

Sunday, 9 January, 2011

Check out this extensive interview with Professor Ronald Coase conducted by Wang Ning on December 28 and 29, 2010 at Chicago. [Source: University of Chicago Law School] The following are excerpts that I found particularly insightful to me from the interview (with emphasis added). Read the full interview yourself. Highly recommended.

WN (Wang Ning): First of all, happy birthday, professor Coase. As you know, Chinese economists are now holding a Conference in Beijing, “Coase and China”, to celebrate your 100th birthday. To my knowledge, no other western economist, probably with the exception of Karl Marx, has ever been so honored in China. The reason is twofold. It first has to do with the powerful influence of your ideas. Second, you clearly have a special feeling toward China. In Chinese culture, reciprocity is a high virtue. The first question many Chinese people have in mind is, what got you interested in China?

RC (Ronald Coase): I don’t know why I am interested in China. I have been interested for a long time, too long for me to remember. I read Marco Polo many years ago, probably as a schoolboy. It was an impressive book. I don’t think anyone can read the book without being impressed by the Chinese civilization. It went back many centuries. It made great achievements long before the rise of the West. That impression stayed with me forever.

[…]

RC: That wouldn’t happen. I was able to do my work at Chicago just as freely as I was at Buffalo.

WN: I think you were right. Given Steve‘s character, I don’t think anyone could stop him from developing his own thought.

RC: I am glad that I later strongly urged Steve to go to Hong Kong. I did not know how much good it would do. But given Steve’s influence in China, I think it was a good move.

Read the rest of this entry »


Interview with 2010 Nobel Laureates in Physics Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov

Saturday, 11 December, 2010

Have a look of the wonderful video interview with 2010 Nobel Laureates in Physics Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. They talk about many topics including why they didn’t patent graphene initially, what they later decide to patent, they way they think about science, etc. Very insightful stuff.


The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony video

Saturday, 11 December, 2010

An empty chair for Mr. Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

For the record. Here is a link to the video of the official Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony 2010. I love the video commentary, very informative and well said.

I think in future Chinese history books, it will be noted that countries that are true friends of China were present at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony.


PBS: Jailed in China, Dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) Honored With Empty Chair at Nobel Ceremony

Saturday, 11 December, 2010

An empty chair for Mr. Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

PBS News Hour: Jailed in China, Dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) Honored With Empty Chair at Nobel Ceremony

“Jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year sentence for writing a pro-democracy manifesto, was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia Friday despite vocal opposition from China.”


2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate – Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波): “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement”

Friday, 10 December, 2010

Liu Xiaobo: 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony - pix 1Liu Xiaobo: 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony - pix 2

Liu Xiaobo: 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony - pix 3Liu Xiaobo: 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony - pix 4

– Guardian (with video), “Nobel peace prize placed on empty chair in honour of Liu Xiaobo

An empty chair for Mr. Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

– The empty chair is saved for Mr. Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

– CBC News (with video), “Nobel ceremony honours absent activist LiuChina tightens security, blocks TV reports ahead of ceremony in Norway

– CTV News (with video), “Nobel peace ceremony goes ahead, with empty chair

– Guardian Live blog coverage, “Nobel peace prize awarded to China’s Liu Xiaobo – live coverage

– ABC News, “Nobel Prize awarded to absent dissident

– Liv Ullmann read for Liu Xiaobo his, “我没有敌人 - 我的最后陈述” (in Chinese), “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement” (in English).

– Liu Xia, wife of Liu Xiaobo, is under house arrest. Many Chinese friends and supporters of Liu Xiaobo are under surveillance in China and are not allowed to leave China because the Chinese government feared they “might” attend the Nobel ceremony. In fact, ABC news reports, “An Australian-based Chinese dissident said police detained him for 24 hours at Shanghai’s airport and forced him to return home in a bid to stop him attending Friday’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

– Here is a BBC radio program “Liu Xiaobo: “I Have No Enemies”

– The following is an excerpt from the Award Ceremony Speech,

“We regret that the Laureate is not present here today. He is in isolation in a prison in north-east China. Nor can the Laureate’s wife Liu Xia or his closest relatives be here with us. No medal or diploma will therefore be presented here today.

This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate. We congratulate Liu Xiaobo on this year’s Peace Prize.

There have been a number of previous occasions when the Laureate has been prevented from attending. This has in fact been the case with several awards which have proved in the light of history to have been most significant and honourable. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Confucius Peace Prize

Thursday, 9 December, 2010

China's Confucius Peace Prize

If it wasn’t that sad and painful, China’s Confucius Peace Prize can be a good joke. Here is a video report of China’s Confucius Peace Prize by CBC.


Nobel crackdown in China

Thursday, 9 December, 2010

Nobel crackdown in China. An insightful piece for the record.

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan reports [note: links added]

For the first time since 1936, the Nobel Peace Prize won’t be handed over to the winner himself, Liu Xiaobo, or a member of his family.

That year, it was pacifist Carl von Ossietzky living in Nazi Germany who couldn’t attend.

In 2010, Communist China is the obstacle.

An uncomfortable comparison.

Ever since the Nobel announcement, China has responded angrily.

Putting not only Liu Xiaobo’s wife under house arrest, but human rights activists everywhere.

Even limited discussions in the country about political liberalization have been censored since the Nobel announcement.


The case of Liu Xiaobo – Reflections on China and the Nobel Peace Prize

Wednesday, 8 December, 2010

From CBC News “Q&A – The case of Liu Xiaobo – Reflections on China and the Nobel Peace Prize

Dai Qing, “We are trying to avoid a new rebellion and revolution. We hope for evolution. There has been so much suffering over the past 60 years. There are models for us, like Desmond Tutu. He says: show truth and show justice. Then people can work together.

This is the way to change China from a dictatorship to a new political system.”

From Guardian, “Chinese dissident: A Nobel for the right man – Liu Xiaobo has earned this title and is paying a personal price for doing so

“The list of 18 countries which will have declined invitations “for various reasons” to the ceremony in which the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo will be awarded this year’s Nobel peace prize tells its own story. There is only one reason – fear of displeasing a rising economic power. The foreign ministry spokeswoman of China, the 19th country to refuse, called the supporters of this year’s prize clowns perpetrating a farce.

The opposite is true. China is taking the snub implied by a man they have branded a criminal being honoured, entirely in earnest. Why else would they hurriedly concoct their own “Confucius peace prize”, a day ahead of the ceremony in Oslo? Why would they attack the choice of Liu as an attack on their sovereignty and an example of western ideological warfare? Encouragingly, India is not bending at the knees and will attend.”

Incidentally, what Chinese government has decided to do to “counter” Mr. Liu’s Nobel Prize has become practically farcical, see Huffington Post,  “A Loyalist and a Tiananmen General Win China’s Peace and Harmony Awards“. Very sad.


Aung San Suu Kyi

Sunday, 14 November, 2010

I am happy to see Aung San Suu Kyi was freed and able to talk to her supporters. Excerpt from CBC News,

“Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking to supporters a day after she was released from years of house arrest, said she will continue to fight for human rights and the rule of law in military-ruled Burma.

[…] “If we want to get what we want, we have to do it in the right way; otherwise we will not achieve our goal, however noble or correct it may be,” she said.

Suu Kyi spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention without trial because of her opposition to military rule. She was allowed to leave her lakeside residence Saturday after a term lasting 7½ years.

She insisted she felt “no antagonism” toward those who kept her under house arrest and that she was “well treated.”

But she called on the military junta that has ruled Burma for 48 years to “treat the people well also.” Suu Kyi said the “basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech” and urged supporters to “stand up for what is right.”

She ended her speech by saying one woman’s expression is not democracy. “We must walk together,” she told the crowd.”

From Toronto Star, for the record,

“She was steely, charming and wise.

On her first full day of freedom in more than seven years, democratic icon Aung Sang Suu Kyi made clear she was ready to resume the struggle for democracy inside Burma, but — she added skillfully — she was also ready for reconciliation and dialogue.

It was a clear sign that the charismatic leader, released on the weekend, is well aware of the fine line she’ll have to tread if she wants to keep the generals at bay and continue the fight for a democratic Burma.

Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters outside her party headquarters Sunday — and to reporters later at a news conference — Suu Kyi demonstrated beyond any doubt that she is back in the fray.

“I am for national reconciliation. I am for dialogue. Whatever authority I have, I will use it to that end,” she said. “I hope the people will support me.””

From the Nov 15th Globe and Mail editorial, for the record,

“The release of Ms. Suu Kyi from house arrest, under detention for 15 of the last 21 years, is more significant. She is by no means “free” – the military will still look for any legal means to silence and marginalize her. But her influence, as shown by the thousands gathered outside her house to greet her, is still great. if she proceeds judiciously, she may yet be able to use her popularity and authority to push for further relaxation of military rule.

Interested in fostering greater links with neighbouring China and India, the ruling junta doesn’t want Myanmar to be seen as a pariah state, even if it doesn’t want to give up its power either. The government embarked on a round of massive privatization earlier this year, selling assets such as gold mines and hydroelectric resources to various generals, a move which created internal commercial rivals, and could weaken those in power in the long run.

The opposition should ready itself to take advantage of any emerging internal divisions – as well as any overtures for reform, however weak.”


Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

Friday, 8 October, 2010

Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

I had dared not to dream of this morning’s announcement but it is finally true.

Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) has been announced as the winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010 “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.

The quest for Chinese democracy is truly a long struggle (山長水遠的鬥爭). Because of Mr. Liu‘s ill health for being locked in Chinese prison for so many years, it is important for citizens and governments of the world to demand Mr. Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) to be released from prison now.

Chinese Dissident Wins Nobel Peace Prize, Associated Press

Nobel-Winner Xiaobo ‘Stuck to His Guns’ on China’s Political Reform“, PBS News Hour

Fighting for freedom in China, Al Jazeera English

News from around the world:

– Chinese dissident wins Nobel Peace Prize – Recipient denounced as ‘a criminal’ by China, CBC News with video

– “Liu Xiaobo Nobel win prompts Chinese fury – Chinese authorities say awarding peace prize to ‘criminal’ will hurt relations with Norway“, Guardian UK (with video report and phone interview from China)

– “Liu Xiaobo receives the 2010 Nobel peace prize“, Guardian UK posted a series of beautiful photos

– Wife of Chinese dissident ‘swept over’ by Nobel prize win, Toronto Star

– Here is an earlier article/interview “Chinese dissident tipped for Nobel Peace Prize“, published three days ago on Oct 5th, showing a bit of Canadian involvement and inspiration that is worth quoting here (emphasis added),

“But recently, Liu Xia revealed, she has taken some strength from words by Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

Writing to friends in Hong Kong last month to thank them for supporting her husband, Liu Xia cited words from a speech that Atwood delivered in April on receiving an award from PEN America, an organization that works to defend free expression.

Atwood spoke of how silence and secrecy allow the worst horrors to breed,” she said, “and how sooner or later the hidden stories in a society have to come out.

Atwood then went on to say, ‘The messengers in such cases are seldom welcome — yet they are necessary and must be protected.’

“Of course,” said Liu Xia, “my husband is one of those messengers.”

And yet his winning a Nobel Peace Prize is one message the Chinese government doesn’t want to hear.

In fact, last summer the Chinese government sent an envoy to Norway to directly threaten the Nobel Committee if it dared to give the award to a Chinese dissident.

– Nobel Peace Prize awarded to China dissident Liu Xiaobo, BBC with video

– “China blanks Nobel Peace prize searches“, CNN

– China’s Silent Peace Prize, Wall Street Journal. Here is an excerpt with emphasis added,

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Friday it awarded the peace prize to imprisoned Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo for his fight for human rights in China, but there is no mention of it in Chinese media. Access to news segments broadcast on CNN and BBC International, normally available, have been blocked by government censors, aiming to thwart widespread knowledge of the prize.

China’s Web censors have deleted chatter from Liu’s colleagues, as well as China’s intellectuals and elite, that began to spread on China’s blogs and message boards only minutes after the news broke. On Sina, personal comments that referred to Liu as LXB or Liu Liu, avoiding his full name, disappeared an hour after having been posted. Remarks that said, “He won,” are no longer visible.”

– China calls Nobel decision ‘blasphemy’; West praises it, CNN

– “Nobel Peace Prize for Dissident Liu Has China Warning Norway on Relations“, Bloomberg


Andre Geim: co-winner of 2010 Nobel Prize “two-dimensional material graphene” & 2000 Ig Nobel Prize “using magnets to levitate a frog”

Tuesday, 5 October, 2010

2000 Ig Nobel Prize "using magnets to levitate a frog" (Andre Geim is also the co-winner of 2010 Nobel Prize "two-dimensional material graphene")

It is good to see serious scientist knowing how to have fun too.

Andre Geim (U of Manchester page): co-winner of 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics “two-dimensional material graphene” was also the co-winner of 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics (in an unrelated subject area) “using magnets to levitate a frog“.

Here is that frog video and the joint-paper “Of flying frogs and Levitrons“. Enjoy.

See “University of Manchester scientists win the Nobel Prize for Physics“. Here is PBS general news report “Graphene: Nobel Winners’ Thin, Mighty Material Holds Much Promise

Also check out “The Frog That Learned to Fly” (with videos of levitating strawberry, grasshopper, etc). Here is an excerpt (emphasis added),

Why frogs?

However common in biology research, frogs are rare customers in physics laboratories and one may wonder why the Dutch boffins levitated frogs rather than “something scientific”, … like a mumbo-jumbo, for instance. We apologise to those who believe that “the real physics” should involve only obscure substances and be always dull.

Diamagnetic levitation was first demonstrated as long ago as in 1939 when small beads of graphite and bismuth were levitated in an electromagnet (for historic details, read Physics Today). It took scientists another 50 years to rediscover levitation when physicists from Grenoble lifted several organic materials by the diamagnetic force. They were not aware of the earlier experiment. Although Grenoble’s research was published in Nature, a few scientists noticed it.

When we, in our turn, rediscovered levitation being unaware of the previous experiments, we were amazed to find out that 90% of our colleagues did not believe that we were not joking that water can levitate. It became obvious to us that it was important to make scientists (as well as non-scientists) aware of the phenomenon. We levitated a live frog and other not-very-scientific objects because of their obvious appeal to a broader audience and in the hope that researchers from various disciplines, not only physicists, would never ever forget this often neglected force and the opportunities it offers.

In addition, the frog picture will probably help students studying magnetism to get less easily bored.

Why does the frog fly?

(this explanation is written in response to numerous inquiries from children who have not studied physics yet … or even do not want to study it at all)

[…] As you probably saw many times when playing with magnets, magnets push each other away if you try to bring together their like poles, for example, two north or two south poles. Similarly, the north pole of the external field will try to push away the “north poles” of magnetized atoms.

Our magnet creates a very large magnetic field (about 100 to 1000 times larger than school or household magnets).

In this field, all the atoms inside the frog act as very small magnets creating a field of about 2 Gauss (although very small, such a field can still be detected by a compass). One may say that the frog is now built up of these tiny magnets all of which are repelled by the large magnet. The force, which is directed upwards, appears to be strong enough to compensate the force of gravity (directed downwards) that also acts on every single atom of the frog. So, the frog’s atoms do not feel any force at all and the frog floats as if it were in a spacecraft.


2010 Nobel Prizes in Medicine and Physics

Tuesday, 5 October, 2010

The following are the 2010 Nobel Prize winners announcements for Medicine (Robert G. Edwards – “for the development of in vitro fertilization”) (news from CBC) and Physics (Andre Geim, Konstantin Novoselov – “for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene”) (news from CBC).

More news related to the Physics prize.

University of Manchester scientists win the Nobel Prize for Physics“, University of Manchester (include interview with Professor Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov)

Why Graphene Won Scientists the Nobel Prize“, Wired Magazine

Andre Geim: Why graphene is the stuff of the future“, New Scientist

Physics: Nobel Prize discovery was fished from the trash“, USA Today

How sticky tape trick led to Nobel Prize“, BBC

U. Manchester’s Andre Geim: Sticking with Graphene“, Science Watch 2008 interview

SW: Graphene seems to be just one particularly extraordinary example of a long line of unique discoveries in your research. How would you characterize your research style?

It is rather unusual, I have to say. I do not dig deep—I graze shallow. So ever since I was a postdoc, I would go into a different subject every five years or so. Every time I took a different university position, I would change subjects. I don’t want to carry on studying the same thing from cradle to grave. Sometimes I joke that I am not interested in doing re-search, only search. There have been a few hits, like graphene and levitating frogs and gecko tape. When I moved from Holland to the University of Manchester, it was a good time to try new subjects, and one of the things that came out of it was gecko tape and another was graphene, and a third involved domain walls in magnetic structures. Graphene certainly turned out to be the biggest hit, scientifically the most important. Even though gecko tape is very popular these days, we had to completely abandon it. Graphene turned out to be much, much more important than anything else.

SW: Is there a common theme to your research strategies?

The common theme is to use experimental facilities that are available and to see what we can do—what other people haven’t done previously. I’m looking for an unexplored area of research, based on a combination of knowledge and facilities. I’m not trying to reach some theoretical goal set forth by someone else. It’s like this kids’ toy, Lego. You have all these different pieces, cubes and stuff, and you have to build something based strictly on what pieces you’ve got. So in research, some of the Lego pieces are facilities, some are random knowledge, and we try to build up something new from that. I guess we could call it the “Lego Doctrine.”

Silicon Chips May Have Quite A Bright Future, Says Nobel Prize Winner“, Forbes blog

The 2010 Nobel prizes: Physics“, The Economist Blog

More on Medicine Prize.

The 2010 Nobel prizes: Medicine“, The Economist Blog


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