Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In praise of Andre Geim

Tonight I had the opportunity to celebrate one of Manchester's proudest and greatest achievements in the last year. Professor Andre Geim, Nobel prize winner, was delivering the Cockford-Rutherford Lecture.

It was certainly a great deal more inspiring than any physics lesson I ever had at school. The main thing I took from it was his sense of curiosity. Though he started his research career in the Soviet Union, Geim has a wonderful exploratory mind. His Friday Night Experiments are the ones that have seemed to have attracted attention and ultimately proved fruitful. One was the levitating frog - an experiment in magnetic fields. Another was seeing if you could reduce a piece of graphite, such as a pencil mark, to a single atomic depth. This led to the discovery of Graphene, for which he won the Nobel Prize.

The product has been taken up in communications by the US military. Geim is working with Samsung, but he's also been warned off patenting Graphene, as he explains here.

These are quite remarkable quick wins and major advances for science, following his discovery.

His final line was massively inspiring:  "How shockingly little we know about the world around us."

But there's also a curiosity I have - how can this city, this part of the world where we are raising our children benefit from this fabulous world changing invention? I'm not sure it will.  Science works in strange ways, it's both healthy for research and academic advancement that he works at the University of Manchester. But when these enquiries have such profound opportunities there has to be a passionate and rather bullish determination to make it work for the home team.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But still no scientist can discover a cure for baldness in manchester football players.