October 7, 2009

First woman to win Chemistry Nobel in 45 years

From the NYT:

Three scientists who showed how the information encoded on strands of DNA is translated into the thousands of proteins that make up living matter will share the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, the Swedish Academy of Sciences said Wednesday.

The trio are Venkatraman Ramakrishnan of the M.R.C. Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England; Thomas A. Steitz of Yale University; and Ada E. Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. Each will get a third of the prize, worth 10 million Swedish kronors total, or $1.4 million, in a Dec. 10 ceremony in Stockholm.

Dr. Yonath is the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry since Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin in 1964 (in case you are wondering, Miss Crowfoot wasn't an American Indian), and the fourth woman since 1903. (Marie Curie won in 1911, after winning the physics Nobel in 1903, and her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie won in 1935.)

From 1965 through 2008, during the heart of the feminist era, the Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Chemistry Nobels to 84 men and zero women, which demonstrates conclusively to even somebody as ignorant of chemistry as me that Dr. Yonath's Nobel Prize is not an affirmative action token.

It's striking that in its three hard science prizes, the Swedish Academy of Sciences simply ignored all the political pressures for affirmative action and went about its business using the same objective standards as ever. This reminds me of something I wrote in a 2005 article about the Larry Summers brouhaha:

My wife asked, "So why hasn't the Nobel Foundation bowed to feminist pressure and started the usual crypto-quotas to make women feel better about themselves?"

"Because they don't have to?" I speculated. "After all, they're the Nobel Foundation."

"Exactly," she shot back. "And Larry Summers is the President of Harvard. So why can't he stand up to the feminists, too?"

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but Michelle LaVaughn Robinson has white blood in her [set to break in tomorrow's NY Times].

Nanonymous said...

Steve, your insinuation that the latest Nobel-winning woman is somehow undeserving is total crap. Yonath was a pioneer in the field ahead all of her man competitors. Her competitors - including the two who did share the prize with her - benefited greatly from the work done in her lab. The structure and the function of ribosome is one the most important issues in molecular biology. If anything, Yonath is way more deserveing than one of her co-laureates.

Steve Sailer said...

Please read more carefully.

phil said...

Off-topic, but Michelle LaVaughn Robinson has white blood in her [set to break in tomorrow's NY Times].

Pretty much everyone who reads the iSteve Blog already knows that most African-Americans have some white admixture.

Nanonymous said...

Steve:
Please read more carefully.

I did. Mea culpa. Knee jerk reaction. Sorry, Steve!

Ralph said...

From the NY Times article on Michelle Obama's ancestry:

“She is representative of how we have evolved and who we are,” said Edward Ball, a historian who discovered that he had black relatives — the descendants of his white slave-owning ancestors — when he researched his memoir, “Slaves in the Family.”

“We are not separate tribes of Latinos and whites and blacks in America,” Mr. Ball said. “We’ve all mingled, and we have done so for generations.”

It's funny how Latinos have been quietly slipped into this narrative that supposedly spans generations.

Anonymous said...

Anon says:


Off-topic, but Michelle LaVaughn Robinson has white blood in her [set to break in tomorrow's NY Times].


Dude, I've got news for you. So does the President! As do pretty much all African Americans. The President just happens to be 50% white.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I've got news for you. So does the President! As do pretty much all African Americans. The President just happens to be 50% white.

Don't you find it odd that they have 31 PAGES [!!!] of documentation for the story, yet the only "Certificate of Live Birth" ["COLB"] that was released for her husband was quickly proven to be forgery?

Truth said...

"From 1965 through 2008, during the heart of the feminist era, the Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Chemistry Nobels to 84 men and zero women, which demonstrates conclusively to even somebody as ignorant of chemistry as me that Dr. Yonath's Nobel Prize is not an affirmative action token."

Come again?

From 1776 to 2008 the electoral college awarded the presidency to exactly 44 white men and 0 black ones.

"Off-topic, but Michelle LaVaughn Robinson has white blood in her"

I'm surprised Diane Sawyer didn't do live break-in to Cougartown!

Reactionary said...

Steve - why are you such a hater who hates women? And why do you like Hitler so much?

Sid said...

No one liked Larry Summers. The sexual inequality in math and science bruhaha was a smoke screen to get rid of a guy so condescending that he'd act superior to Albert Einstein. Being a university president requires not just advanced brainpower, but also people skills wherein you can successfully navigate other bright people with bigger egos than brains. A professor can largely ignore his superior's directives, especially with tenure.

Mark said...

Dude, I've got news for you. So does the President! As do pretty much all African Americans. The President just happens to be 50% white.

51% white. Men inherit more DNA from their mothers than from their fathers.

As for Michelle Obama being part white (at least 1/32nd, according to the article)...

[Michelle Obama's] pedigree, which includes American Indian strands, highlights the complicated history of racial intermingling, sometimes born of violence or coercion, that lingers in the bloodlines of many African-Americans.

Violence and coercion? So who, pray tell, is mostly closely related to these people who violently coerced slave women into having sex? Their descendants, that's who. And those descendants are most likely to be today's blacks.

Apparently I'm not just guilty for what my ancestors did but for what Michelle Obama's ancestors did, too.

Anonymous said...

51% white. Men inherit more DNA from their mothers than from their fathers.

this true? never heard of this before.

Step one: remove head from rectum. said...

I'm confused. Why is the Swedish Academy taking up the issue of Mama Michelle's bloodline?

col said...

On the flip side..there could have been another women Physicist nobel prize winner in Lise Meitner in the 1940s. Unfortunately political circumstance prevented her work in nuclear fission from being acknowledged by the Nazi regime.

Aaron said...

Re Ms. Sailer's question, "And Larry Summers is the President of Harvard. So why can't he stand up to the feminists, too?"

Is fund-raising a major duty of the Nobel Committee?

sabril said...

Steve, how do you explain the fact that Nobel prizes in literature have been awarded to people like Toni Morrison?

Anonymous said...

Mark,

Are you the same Mark that comments at Prozium's blog? Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

Men inherit more DNA from their mothers than from their fathers.

Mitochondrial DNA from mothers, and the Y-chromosome is also shorter than the X-chromosome.

(BTW, not the same anonymous.)

Paul Meyer said...

This post reminds me that Steve once wanted to post a second list of names taken from Murray. The first was arts-centered; the second was supposed to be science-centered. Or did I just not catch it?

jody said...

well, like i said, stephanie kwolek should have already been awarded the nobel prize in chemistry 10 years ago. nobel science prizes have been awarded for things less important than kevlar.

Mark said...

Are you the same Mark that comments at Prozium's blog? Just wondering

No. I don't even know who Prozium is. I have posted comments at Parapundit and Ace of Spades, however.

this true? never heard of this before.

The Y chromosome, which boys get from their fathers, contains only 86 genes. The X chromosome, which boys get only from their mothers, contains nearly 2000 genes.

Truth(er) said...

Steve has a wife who is not a feminist?

albertosaurus said...

A couple days ago I posted a comment that based on brains alone we should expect for there to have been about 25 female Nobel laureates and only one black since 1901. I didn't have the back of an envelope handy so did the math in my head. I could be wrong.

If I'm right then we seem to be getting approximately the expected number of females winning the Nobel.

Let me expand on this point a little. The affirmative action industry always uses a simpler expectation. They say that if a group is say 10% of the population then we should expect 10% of the best positions should be held by members of that group. This makes the math simple but it is outrageously misleading.

Consider how smart you must be to win a Nobel if you are white. You need an IQ of about 145. That's three standard deviations above the average. If you are black however that same 145 level is four standard deviations above your population mean. Check a table of z-scores and you will see that there are 433 times as many people three SDs out as there are at four SDs.

So we should expect in a group of five hundred or so with IQs of 145 to see about one black face.

Women we now know also have an IQ deficit compared to men. It is probably about three to five IQ points. That difference translates to an expectation of about 25 to one of men versus women at 145.

This is a an oversimplification of course. On purely physiological grounds women have advantages as fighter pilots. Apparently their circulation systems designed for child birth make them more tolerant of high G forces so they resist blacking out in tight turns. But most fighter pilots have been and will continue to be men.

Go to the mall and look at the population playing video games especially shoot-em-up video games. All boys. Boys and young men hunger for combat. Girls don't.

Almost all explorers have been men probably because of taste and temperament too. Research is a kind of exploration. I wouldn't be surprised if women don't pursue research careers for taste and temperament reasons too.

It is also suspected that white men are more diverse than women or blacks. That is to say their IQ scores have greater variance. If this is true, then female and black participation rates in Nobel worthy research should be even lower than they are.

So if you are trying to reach a judgment about the justice of female accomplishment in this wicked world you must compare the actual rates with the expected rates. If you expect 50-50 you are mistaken. A more sensible expectation is about 25 to 1 in favor of men.

josh said...

Steve,you can deal with all the "analysis" and "facts" and "dates" and all this other mumbo jumbo you love so much,but I go with my gut--and my gut tells me they gave this to her because she's a woman.I'm kidding.o'course,but only partially.:) Lets look at the Academy. During the height of the feminist tsunami,the boys of the academy would be pre feminist,with pre-feminist ideals like not giving awards to women just because theyre women. Naifs! After the Long March through the Institutions,and dealing with the important stuff,like destroying marriage,education,morals,freedom from discrimination etc,only lately have they had the luxury of dealing with the fat massive egos of middle-aged obese post menopause "babes" who are rankled by all those male Nobels. This is not to say that the lady is not a great scientist--and maybe she deserved the prize,its all subjective to a degree. (I recall once reading an essay by Norman Mailer going on and on about how he wants to and should win the Nobel.I dont think he ever did. Naked And The Dead was a great book,but I kept reading his other stuff thinking it might be good,too.Er,-it wasnt.) The point is,winning the Prize is a great thing...but didnt Krugman win one?So how seriously can you take it?

Anonymous said...

"51% white. Men inherit more DNA from their mothers than from their fathers.

this true? never heard of this before."

Yeah. The DNA in the mitochondria in your cells is a direct copy of the DNA in the mitochondria of the egg. Sperm contributes only nuclear DNA, not mitochondrial.

Anonymous said...

"Violence and coercion? So who, pray tell, is mostly closely related to these people who violently coerced slave women into having sex? Their descendants, that's who. And those descendants are most likely to be today's blacks.

Apparently I'm not just guilty for what my ancestors did but for what Michelle Obama's ancestors did, too"

From the article:

quote:
"It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia, who gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when she was perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm."
Quote:
“No one should be surprised anymore to hear about the number of rapes and the amount of sexual exploitation that took place under slavery; it was an everyday experience,"
Then:
"In 1870, three of Melvinia’s four children, including Dolphus, were listed on the census as mulatto. One was born four years after emancipation, suggesting that the liaison that produced those children endured after slavery."


Plenty of innuendo here about Henry being a rapist, but where's the proof? Even IF Henry's the dad -- which by the article's own admission, there is NO proof -- if the relationship with whomever the dad was continued AFTER she was freed, sounds like consensual sex to me.

Svigor said...

It's funny how Latinos have been quietly slipped into this narrative that supposedly spans generations.

It's funny how leftists, or people mouthing leftist attitudes get to speak for everyone ("white men don't need you to defend them" is a frequent "I am all white men" expression from leftist white men; wonder how often this is in proximity to expressing the leftist sentiments of all white men?). But if anyone else does, they're shouted down by leftists.

That fellow should speak for himself, I'm not a mustifee and I'd rather not have mustifees saying I am.

Sorry, Americans with mostly white ancestry and a smattering of black ancestry are the exception, not the rule, and they don't get to just automatically assuage any negative feelings they may have about their ancestry by dictating mine soi distant. The standard boilerplate that we're all mongrels is not acceptable, and that is a position that can cut across the political spectrum.

Svigor said...

No one should be surprised anymore to hear about the number of rapes and the amount of sexual exploitation that took place under slavery

I dunno Anon, "sexual exploitation" offers a wide latitude. If the slave seduces the master, the former is still easily characterized as an exploiter (as long as the master is the male in the equation, and white, and we're talking about heterosexual intercourse).

Feministas consider the boss screwing his employee to be exploitation (as long as the boss is the male in the equation, and white, and we're talking about heterosexual intercourse).

Anonymous said...

"If the slave seduces the master, the former is still easily characterized as an exploiter"

"Feministas consider the boss screwing his employee to be exploitation"

If she goes BACK for more action after being freed or fired or resigning, then you'd have a hard time convincing me while on the jury that there was EVER any exploitation going on.

Anonymous said...

Rape: when the check bounces.

MaryJ said...

Generally, female academics are not as intelligent as men, except for the ones who do research in "evolutionary psychology."

Bre said...

I don't think that the Nobel prize is or ever will be awarded based on feminist affirmative action. However, the prizes are award after significant delay. The foundation waits for decades before awarding the prizes in science in order to make sure the research is correct and important. For example, the research for this prize was conducted in the late 1970's. If we were to see an increase in women being awarded prizes due to affirmative action we wouldn't see it for decades. The increase we would see would be due to an increase in the number of women entering science due to affirmative action here, and not due to some agenda of the Nobel foundation.

Felix said...

Prefatory comment. I'm not a chemist but I accept that Yonath is an extremely good scientist.

Anyhows, Steve referred to the absence of women Nobel laureates from 1965 through 2008, "the heart of the feminist era".

But this could be due to Academy members being of an older generation. Perhaps younger members are now predominating and reflecting the contemporary zeitgeist.

One test - will there be a progressive increase in women awarded Nobel prizes in chemistry?

sabril said...

Again my question: The Nobel committee for the literature prize practices affirmative action.

And as was just dramatically demonstrated, the peace prize committee is completely in the throes of political correctness.

So why are (?) the science prizes exempt?

light bulb said...

" This is not to say that the lady is not a great scientist--and maybe she deserved the prize,its all subjective to a degree."

And heck, there's that useless Krugman...
God this is getting icky. I don't mean steve, who actually gives credit where it's due, even if some don't get his little jokes. But the bad grace and grudging resentment of some few people on this subject really should be captured for posterity and used to illustrate a few feminist points.
That should be a scary thought for many here.
Being a bit of a sad sack myself, I feel your pain about misfortunes in the realm of gender relations and scientific achievement, but the world moves on anyway.

There are always people who might have won the prize instead of the winner, even without differences of gender, race, nationality, being taken into account. However, the hard sciences are much less plastic in adjusting to affirmative action demands, and if the awards get to 50-50 men/women, even i will be skeptical. However, I think Bre has provided what is by far the most objective perspective as far as what we can now know.

"I don't think that the Nobel prize is or ever will be awarded based on feminist affirmative action. However, the prizes are award after significant delay. The foundation waits for decades before awarding the prizes in science in order to make sure the research is correct and important. For example, the research for this prize was conducted in the late 1970's. If we were to see an increase in women being awarded prizes due to affirmative action we wouldn't see it for decades. The increase we would see would be due to an increase in the number of women entering science due to affirmative action here, and not due to some agenda of the Nobel foundation."

So. We'll see in the next decade.

Anonymous said...

"But the bad grace and grudging resentment of some few people on this subject really should be captured for posterity and used to illustrate a few feminist points"

How many lesbians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

THAT'S NOT FUNNY!

Grumpy Swede said...

To those who wonder why the science prizes is a male-dominated affair, while the Literature prizes recently have mirrored US politic appointments: The prizes are awarded by different groups. The Swedish Academy is more progressive (i e concerned with what kind of status the prize winner gives them among fellow intellectuals) than the Swedish Academy of Sciences, who are geeky enough to belive that there are objective standards other than chromosone collection and skin albedo, against which the importance of contributions can be measured.

Clearly, the Norwegians are paving the way to a more progressive future where members of victim groups are finally compensated in a small way for past injustices.

light bulb said...

last anonymous wonders, "How many lesbians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

THAT'S NOT FUNNY!"


huh?
oh, and how 'bout them Redskins...


oh I get it---my current handle for this thread. haha.

Anonymous said...

How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

IT JUST DOES, OK?

none of the above said...

There's a different aspect of male/female differences that might be at least as important as IQ distribution (where women have a smaller standard deviation, and so are expected to have fewer outliers on either side). The culture of different scientific fields can differ a lot. How much is being an iconoclast accepted? Do successful researchers mostly work alone or in small groups, or on large projects with dozens of people? How much filtering on grades, test scores, references, etc., happens before you even get to the point of doing anything really innovative?

ISTM that men and women differ much more in personality, on average, than in intelligence. (Though if we assume the standard deviation difference, there will be some point where IQ differences are more important.) Women also differ in biology, in that following their own biological imperatives requires losing a fair bit of prime working time to have a baby or two.

I wonder how much the different level of female participation in different fields, and at the tops of those fields, is driven by those cultural or organizational differences, by the poor fit between some fields and most womens' personalities, or by the poor fit between the requirements of entry into some fields and the practical problems of getting married and having kids.

light bulb said...

"Anonymous said...
"How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

IT JUST DOES, OK?"

10/09/2009"


It's past your bedtime Anomy. Lights out.
(this obsession with lesbians probably worries your mom&dad.)

Truth said...

"How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"

Lesbians don't screw in lightbulbs; the phallic domination of the penis over the vagina symbolized by the act is sexist.

The light bulb is a fifty cent throwaway apendeage, the socket connects to the all-powerful dynamo known as mother earth.