Obama and the sea.
Obama and the sea. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Hilborn Argues Obama’s Marine Preserves Are No Good: The last time UW Fisheries researcher Ray Hilborn was featured in this column, he was the subject of a public records request filed by conservation NGO Greenpeace, who accused him of improperly disclosing industry funding. Though Hilborn has courted controversy in the past by questioning claims of overfishing, he was widely supported by colleagues and by a formal statement issued by the University. Now, in an opinion piece published by Fox News on Thursday, he argues that marine protected areas—a designation Obama recently applied to a stretch of sea northwest of Hawaii that became the “largest protected place on the planet”— are bad for both people and the ocean. “Large MPAs...will mean less high quality, nutritious food available for the poorest people in the world,” he writes, claiming there is “no evidence that MPAs actually increase the abundance of fish outside of the reserve.” Unsuprisingly, Greenpeace feels differently.

UW Physics Professor Wins Nobel Prize: David Thouless, the University of Washington physicist known for his pioneering research on “strange matter” in the 1970s, has won the Nobel Prize for Physics. In their press release announcing the award, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cites Thouless’ work introducing “topological” concepts to physics, a branch of mathematics concerned with properties that change in a stepwise manner. His research often involved investigating the topological properties of extremely thin materials, including seminal experiments demonstrating “superconductivity”—the complete absence of electrical resistance in substances cooled beyond a certain point—occurs because a phase transition related to temperature. Wired has more here.

But Nobel-Worthy Research Is Hard to Do These Days: Per last week’s article on natural selection for unreliable results in science, Pacific Standard’s Michael White argues Nobel Prize-caliber work is disincentivized by today’s academic climate. He uses the career of Yoshinori Ohsumi, this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology, as an example of a good way to do things but a bad way to get a job: “Ohsumi picked an important but understudied problem, whose relevance to human disease was not guaranteed. Rather than trying to quickly publish flashy results in high-visibility journals, he steadily published relatively incremental work in solid, field-specific journals.” The current academic climate presses for flashy and guaranteed results.

They Should Really Update the Nobel Prize Categories, Though: From The New York Times, on the late, great Bob Paine and his concept of keystone species: “[Had Paine] been a physicist, chemist or cell biologist, such a fundamental, broadly applicable and hugely influential paradigm would probably have put him in contention for a Nobel Prize. But Paine was an ecologist, so he had no shot at the prestige, power and wealth that the Nobels bestow.”