På onsdagen den 11 december gästade tre färska Nobelpristagare riksdagens Förstakammarsal. Sällskapet Riksdagsledamöter och forskare, Rifo, var arrangör och talman Andreas Norlén höll öppningsanförandet.
Dagen efter Nobelhögtidligheterna kom ekonomipristagaren Esther Duflo, Stanley Whittingham, kemipriset och fysikpristagaren Didier Queloz till riksdagen för att delta i ett timslångt seminarium.
Pristagarna fick tillfälle att redogöra för sina respektive upptäckter. Det blev ett seminarium som kom att handla om allt från fattigdomsbekämpning på mikronivå i Indien till upptäckten av nya planeter i yttre rymden till något vi alla är beroende av – laddningsbara batterier.
I sitt tal påminde talman Andreas Norlén om att Nobelpriset är något större än att bara premiera individuella upptäckter:
- Jag är så stolt över att Sverige genom Nobelpriset en gång varje år kan få världen att uppmärksamma vikten av vetenskaplig forskning, kunskap och fakta. Detta har alltid varit viktigt att belysa, men kanske är det viktigare nu än någonsin tidigare, sade han.
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Distinguished Nobel Laureates, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The three Nobel laureates that we have the pleasure of seeing here in the former First Chamber of the Swedish Parliament today, have made fantastic contributions to achieving a better, more efficient and safer world – exactly what Alfred Nobel was aiming for when he introduced the Nobel Prize.
It is my privilege to welcome Professor Didier Queloz, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Professor Stanley Whittingham, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. and Professor Esther Duflo, laureate of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
The Nobel Prizes are a wonderful way of saluting individual achievements, but they are much more than that. I am so very proud that Sweden through the Nobel Prizes, once every year, puts the focus of the world on the importance of science, research, knowledge and facts. This has always been important to highlight, but it is perhaps more important today than ever before.
As a humble Doctor of Laws, I am not the right person to go into detail about the findings of our esteemed laureates, but it is worth noting that most, if not all, of us are profiting from the research of Professor Stanley Whittingham on a daily basis.
Like in so many other cases, necessity has proved to be the mother of invention. Professor Whittingham began his research on how to prolong the life of batteries during the energy crisis in the early 1970’s. With oil prices soaring, the world was looking for something new and more sustainable. He and his fellow researchers came up with the chargeable lithium battery.
The result of these efforts we can all enjoy today with chargeable light-weight batteries in our cellular phones, in our cameras, in our computers or in our cars. Thanks to these inventions, the world has taken a definitive step to being less dependent on fossil fuels, something most of us would agree is of the utmost importance.
Science is very much the discipline of trial and error. For example, I heard that during Professor Whittingham’s research on lithium batteries, his lab caught fire so many times the fire department was considering charging him for each emergency response they had to make.
This year’s laureates are not limited only to our world. Professor Didier Queloz and his colleagues have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics after having discovered the planet “51 Pegasi b” some 50 lightyears beyond the constellation of Pegasus. This truly sounds like science-fiction, but in fact it is all science and no fiction. The fact that a planet of the size of Jupiter was so close to its own star contradicted all theories about how planets are created.
This even raises more existential questions about how little we still know about the universe and if there is life somewhere in outer space.
Space is fascinating but without any doubt we also face many challenges here on mother earth. The struggle against poverty is definitely on of mankind’s most important tasks and the debate on what the best methods are has been going on for decades. Professor Esther Duflo, has proved that seemingly small things, which are sometimes easy to overlook, can have a great impact in pulling people out of poverty.
She and her colleagues have shown that poverty can be fought by using small steps. Their field studies suggest that small measures can make a big difference. For example, one reason numerous children in the third world couldn’t read or write in a satisfactory way was because they were often home sick. The solution? Handing out masking pills! That alone led to a significantly higher attendance in the schools and that more children learned how to write and read.
Ladies and gentlemen,
One crucial question we as politicians must ask ourselves is what is needed to achieve innovation and inventions. Is it only a coincidence when great inventions are being made?
This question is of course very complex and surely there are many different answers.
Let me just make one observation. The laureates that are here today come from France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. What do these countries have in common? They are all democracies. The laureates have all had the possibility to think outside the box. They have worked in countries where academic freedom is protected. They have performed their research in an environment where failure along the way is regarded as something normal on the path to achieving greatness.
To me it is obvious that only democracies in the long run can produce large numbers of free-thinking scientists who can change our concept of the world and who are willing to challenge established theories.
In Sweden we are now celebrating 100 years of democracy. The Swedish Parliament has embarked on four years of celebrations, from 2018, a hundred years after the first decision to introduce universal and equal suffrage was taken, to 2022, a century after the first five women entered Parliament.
During these 100 years, Sweden made the journey from one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the wealthiest. Numerous Swedish inventions have been worldwide success stories. Today, Sweden is considered to be one of the most innovative countries in the world. I am quite convinced that freedom of expression, academic freedom, rule of law and other features of democracy have played crucial roles in that development.
With these words, let me once again welcome you all to this seminar and leave the floor to Ms Anna Sjöström Douagi, Vice President Programs and Science, at The Nobel Prize Museum.