SFU Crest Simon Fraser university SFU Burnaby
SFU at Harbour Centre
SFU Surrey
SFU Home About SFU Events Webmail Online Services MySFU.ca Search SFU.ca

 The Nobel Prize Lecture Series

In the spring semester of 2006, the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences sponsor a series of talks in which distinguished SFU faculty members provide insight and clarity on the accomplishments of the newest winners of Nobel Prizes and other international awards. The series is presented at the SFU Harbour Center campus on Hastings in Vancouver. Admission is free. As seating is limited, reservations are required. To reserve your seat(s). please call 604-291-5100 or email cs_hc@sfu.ca

March 2 - Nobel Prize in Physics

Presented by Professor Paul Haljan, Department of Physics

Revolutions in Light

March 9 - Nobel Prize in Literature - Harold Pinter

Presented by Professor Peter Dickinson, Department of English

Pinteresque: A Playwright's Random Consolations

In a 1967 New Yorker interview, Harold Pinter described himself as "an old-fashioned writer", one most concerned with creating character and exploring situations. To be sure, the plays for which he is most famous follow, for the most part, a fairly simply pattern. Two people sit in a room. Words are exchanged. A visitor arrives. Something happens that has consequences for all. Yet Pinter's method - for which he has been honoured with his own adjective in the Oxford English Dictionary - departs from the conventional logic of Aristotelian drama. This is because he denies his audiences any insight into the motivations of his characters, actions, or any way of verifying the resolution of their situation. Pinter is not being deliberately obfuscatory, as several of his earliest reviewers charged. Rather, he sees his plays as very much reflecting the real world. Like Beckett, Pinter believes that one cannot be consoled by certainty in the theatre if uncertainty and randomness are the only assurances we have in living our lives, and in endeavouring to answer - like Oedipus, or Hamlet, or Nora, or Didi and Gogo - that most basic question of plot: "Who am I?" This lecture explores Pinter's elaboration of these issues across the body of his work. It argues that what Martin Esslin has identified as "the problems of identity, of motivation, of verification" in Pinter's plays are also at the heart of his poetry, his screenwriting, and his political activism, including, most recently, his vociferous opposition to the war in Iraq.

March 23 - Women Nobel Laureates

Presented by Emeritus Professor Bessie Borwein, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario

The Eleven Women Nobel Laureates in the Sciences, 1903-2004

The story of the women Nobel Laureates and their scientific accomplishments spans a century of diverse mores, customs, prejudices, persecutions, and politics. There is no stereotype for these amazing women. For most of them it was not easy to acquire a scientific education. They worked in different ways in various fields. What they shared was a passion for new knowledge. They loved what they chose to do and worked hard, some without pay or position. Some were married, some had children. They all had hobbies and outside interests. Despite the pervasive discrimination that hobbled women they all had significant male co-workers and supporters. They overcame illnesses, injuries, life-tragedies, political upheavals and embedded prejudices against women and for five of them, against Jews. The soldiered on and made momentous discoveries.

March 30 - Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Presented by Professor Rob Britton, Department of Chemistry

Metathesis: a chemical square dance

In 2005 Yves Chauvin, Robert H. Grubbs and Richard R. Schrock were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis. While this method or reaction was first discovered in the 1950's by industry researchers it wasn't fully understood until 1971, when pioneering work by Yves Chauvin provided a first glimpse at the mechanism. In his description of the reaction, much like a dance in which couples exchange partners, bonds are broken and made between molecules in ways that cause the carbon atoms in these molecules to change places. This process requires the assistance of special catalyst molecules, whose development required a further two decades of research. Richard R. Schrock was the first to produce a practical and efficient metathesis catalyst in 1990; followed two years later by the discovery of a superior, more stable catalyst by Robert H. Grubbs. The advent of the metathesis reaction represents a great step forward for "green chemistry" and has provided fantastic opportunities for producing many new molecules including pharmaceuticals, fuels, synthetic fibers and many other products that find use in our daily lives. The contributions of these Laureates have revolutionized synthetic chemistry and demonstrate how basic research can be applied for the common benefit of society and the environment.

April 6 - Nobel Prize in Economics

Presented by Professor Arthur Robson, Department of Economics

Playing for real - games in theory and in practice

Robert Aumann shared in the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics for his deep theoretical work on how strategic interactions between individuals are greatly affected by repeating the basic game. If you and I will meet again, then you had better allow for possible adverse future reactions from me if you indulge in short sighted exploitation of our current game. If we will not meet again, you need not worry. In particular, the coauthored "Repeated Games with Incomplete Information" was inspired by the Cold War, and concerned a situation where one side had information of interest to both. The uninformed side would then try to deduce what the information might be from the pattern of the informed side's play; the informed side would need to take account of this possibility of letting the cat out of the bag.

Thomas Schelling, on the other hand, shared in this Nobel Prize for much less mathematical work on game theory. In "The Strategy of Conflict," Schelling also rendered vividly macabre aspects of the Cold War-- for example, why it would be advantageous to have an irrational leader who would instantly retaliate to a small provocation, so wreaking devastation on all sides, as long as this commitment was appreciated by the other side. Stupidity might then pay. "The Micromotives of Macrobehavior" is additional charming work on how the process of aggregating the motives of individuals may lead to wildly distorted social outcomes. If individuals have a mild preference for living next to others of the same race, for example, and are free to vote with their feet, the outcome might be rather complete segregation.5

April 20 - Nobel Prize in Medicine

Presented by Professor Margo Moore, Department of Biological Sciences

Does living with stress cause ulcers?

April 27 - Nobel Peace Prize - Presented by Professor Douglas Ross, Department of Political Science

Mr. ElBaradei and the politics of catastrophe management: the IAEA and the struggle to discipline the atom

The speakers are asked to address three areas:

      a. Clarification on the winner's accomplishment and a lay person's understanding of the particular academic discipline. How does this accomplishment affect our society?
      b. Insight on the kind of human being.... the personality, the strong traits and the unique aspects of the person.
      c. Brief summary of the research conducted by the SFU faculty member. In some cases, the work of the faculty member is related to the work of the winner.

All lectures on Thursday evenings at Harbour Center, Segal Center Room or Fletcher Challenge Theater, between 6:00 and 7:30 pm. March 2 to April 27. Light refreshments provided.

Online videos of the talks from previous years are available at our archive!

Simon Fraser University
Terms & Conditions Site Design: LIDC@SFU