Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, Start All Over! A Look Back at the Kavli Prize 2016.

The Kavli Prize is the small twin of the Nobel Prize. It puts Norway on the scientific map of the world. The WFSJ attended this year’s ceremonies in Olso with the five scholarship winners to attend the awarding.

The Kavli Prize motto is intriguing: Science discoveries from the largest to the smallest and to the most complex are being honored. The detection of gravitational waves had been the most stunning revelation of astronomy in the past years. They had been predicted by Einstein 100 years ago. Subsequently, Ronald W.P. Drever, Kip S. Thorne, Rainer Weiss received the Kavli Astrophysics Prize 2016.

Highly sophisticated laser instruments detected the collision of two black holes. This produced 50 times more light than all stars in the skies! As Thorne explained, this technology opens a new window to the universe. It will help us to understand supernovae, cosmic strings and enable to look back to the first second of the universe.

In an interview with the Kavli journalistic scholars, Thorne revealed his personal motivations for his strive for excellency in science. Other than religion, science is much more precise to explain the world and creation. Although costly, basic research remains the mother of science and humanity, because it detects the laws of nature and allows us to utilize them. Thorne could be this year’s Nobel Prize candidate.

At the Kavli banquet in Oslo’s City Hall, prize winner Weiss reminded the scientific community in reference to global warming and other issues of its responsibility to society. This unexpected appeal of an astrophysicist received lots of applause. The event was attended by Erna Solberg, Norway’s Prime Minister, and Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner Research, Science, Innovation.

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From the largest to the smallest: the Nanoscience Prize 2016 was received by Gerd Binnig, Christoph E. Gerber, Calvin F. Quate for the invention of the atomic force microscopy. And from there, it’s many more steps to something even smaller and, yes, most complex: our brain. It’s like an individual universe in our body. The Kavli Neuroscience Prize 2016 was granted to Eve Marder, Michael Merzenich, Carla J. Shatz for the discovery: How the brain remodels and rewires itself, from the cradle all the way to the grave.

This means that every person can learn, no matter what her and his condition is. Education and schools need to live up to this and come up with a proper methodology. Moreover, with regular cognitive exercises and brain training we significantly lower our dementia risks. The performance of the brain should be regularly checked. Screening could start at the age of 30 in order to detect early irregularities. Brain damage after strokes can be cured, if patients immediately start proper exercises stimulating rewiring.

Indeed, not only science, but life itself is a lot like the Norwegian artist SiLyA sang during the prize ceremony in the National Theatre: „Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over!“ His Royal Highness Prince Hakoon handed over the gold medals along with one million US dollars to the Kavli laureates.

Ole M. Sejersted, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, reminded the world: “Oustanding science goes beyond what others find. It breaks barriers of conventional wisdom, enlarges the cultural heritage, based on academic freedom and the freedom of speech.” The latter, not common all over the world, is essential for successful scientific work – like motherhood and apple pie.

Wolfgang Goede
Science journalist – September, 2016


Impressions and voices from the five Kavli Journalistic Laureates 2016: Adjo Doubidji (Togo), Kamcilla Pillay (South Africa), Dinsa Sachan (India), Tanja Rudez (Croatia), Martín De Ambrosio (Argentina). 

Kamcilla Pillay (South Africa): “For many, science is mysterious. It is cloaked in technical terms and jargon, making its difficult subject matter even harder to understand. But this perception was turned on its head by this year’s Kavli Prize recipients. All of them were passionate about sharing their research while facilitating real understanding of their fields. As a journalist, I appreciated this as it made my job of distilling the information they provided into easy-to-understand articles, a fairly pleasant task. The lectures, interviews and informal chats all helped elucidate their findings – opportunities I would not have had, had it not been for the WFSJ and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.”

Martín De Ambrosio (Argentina): “It´s been an exciting and wonderful Norwegian week and I´m very grateful to the Kavli/WFSJ scholarship. As a science journalist, it´s been priceless engaging with some of the greatest scientists of our times. Not only hearing their lectures but also the chance of having informal talks with many of them. Visiting the Moser lab in Trondheim, where the Nobel Prize of Medicine was ´cooked´, was, of course, one of the highlight as well as interviewing Kavli Laureate Kip Thorne, and discovering that he was open and friendly. Moreover, the possibility of sharing the experience with other journalists from around the world has enhanced the week even more. In less than seven days, I have collected more material for my work to write or broadcast than I can explain, which is really awesome.”

Dinsa Sachan (India): “The Kavli Prize Week was a great experience, personally and professionally.”

Adjo Doubidji (Togo): “I would, first of all, like to thank Wfsj and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for this offered opportunity. It is one of the best experiences of my life. This meeting was an occasion for me to know and understand the 2016 Kavli laureates’ discoveries which concerning the direct detection of gravitational waves, the invention and realization of atomic force microscopy, and the discovery of mechanisms that allow experience and neural activity to remodel brain function. The laureates’ lectures, the Kavli Prize Awards ceremony, the Kavli prize awards banquet, the Kavli Institute’s visit in Trondheim, were the best moments for me.”

Tanja Rudez (Croatia): “The Kavli Week 2016 was a wonderful professional and personal experience. It was a good combination of an excellent science and vibrant social life. We enjoyed in the interesting science lectures and talks but also in some prestigious events like The Kavli Prize Award Ceremony.

We had an opportunity to do exclusive interviews, for example, with astrophysicist Kip Thorne and Nobel Prize winner Edvard Moser. It was a great privilege to visit animal facility of Kavli Institute in Trondheim in company of Prof. Moser. Last but not least, I really enjoyed in company of my colleagues Adjo, Dinsa, Kamcilla, Martin and Wolfgang. Although, we are all coming from different parts of the world, as science journalists in turbulent times, we share many similar experiences.”


PHOTO CREDITS

  1. Journalistic Laureates w/Ole Sejersted, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and Wolfgang Chr. Goede, WFSJ board © Tanja Rudez
  2. Kavli celebration in Oslo’s National Theatre © Wolfgang Goede