October 16, 2008
Walter Alvarez, the guy who figured out that dinosaurs were doomed by a massive asteroid that slammed into the Earth, just won a big prize.
The prize is Earth Science’s answer to the Nobel, the Vetlesen Prize.
The asteroid impact set off “a giant tsunami, continent-scale wildfires, darkness, and cold, followed by sweltering greenhouse heat. When conditions returned to normal, half the genera of plants and animals on Earth had perished,” Alvarez writes on his Website.
The impact also left two major clues: a layer of iridium, which is an element found in comets and asteroids but is rare on Earth, and a 110-mile-wide crater near what is now the Yucatan Peninsula. Alvarez dated both to 65 million years ago, a.k.a. End Times for the dinosaurs.
Several scientific fields that are snubbed by the Nobels have established their own “me too!” prizes. Math has the Fields Medal, for instance, and high tech has the Millennium Prize. (It’s administered by Finland, which might reflect a certain amount of rivalry with those other Scandinavian countries that are so prize-happy.) And purists know that the Nobel for Economics isn’t really a Nobel—it’s administered by Sweden’s central bank in honor of Alfred Nobel. But I know I’m forgetting some. Anybody? Help me out here—what other fields have their own versions of the Nobel?
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