2011: International Year of EVERYTHING

It’s always an international year of something. Indeed, usually of several things: 2011 is the international year of Forests, People of African descent, Veterinarians, and Chemistry.

Chemistry is the study of matter – what it’s made of, why it does things, how it can be changed. Much of it has very little to do with beakers and bunsen burners, but of course that’s what we all remember from high school. But all that stuff you think of as elementary physics – the structure of atoms, how they combine into molecules – that’s all chemistry. And it’s awesome. It’s really the study of stuff (if you’ll excuse the Dr Karl-ism), the study of everything. Everything is, after all, made up of stuff.

Fittingly, a day or two ago it was also the centennial of Marie Curie winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Take a moment and think: what was significant about Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize in 1911?

If you answered “she was the first woman to win one”, well…if this was QI, you’d get a big “OBVIOUS BUT WRONG” alarm going off. Sure, Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and that’s significant – there have only been 41 prizes awarded to women, compared to 776 to men since 1901 – but she was the first female Nobel laureate in 1903. In 1911, she became the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, something only three other laureates have managed in all the years since, the first not until fifty years later.

It’s for these awesome reasons that I am the proud owner of a Marie Curie T-shirt, produced by nerd retailer ThinkGeek. I’m pretty excited by this range of excellent women T-shirts, which show them being awesome for things other than cleavage and nudity. I plan to pick up the others (Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace) when I can convince myself to get rid of some of my old T-shirts.

Before I finish talking about 2011, let me say that I also hope it to be a year in which I get out there and do a few more gigs for science. (There are a few lined up already; check out the gigs list.) I’ve not been idle, but it’s been a long while between drinks when it comes to writing science shows. I’ve been instead feeding that other geeky side of me, the one that loves games, mainly with +1 Sword and Dungeon Crawl (you can read about them at Shaolin Punk). I might write a bit about that here for you as well; this is my blog, after all. I never said it would be all about science stuff!