A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
So we come to the end of another month of 2014. I hope it went well for you. I had an action packed February and March is prepared with exams staring at me again:) Anyway, it wasn’t all that bad, I think I’ve been productive and as a result have some time to share my updates with you.
Last week we had a special visitor. Earlier today I read a post saying that apparently February is the most loved month in the world. It is the shortest working month; the employed lot get salaries a couple of days earlier, plus there are other mundane activities such as ‘Valentine’s day’ thrown in. Well for the person visiting the science faculty October must be the most fabulous/memorable month. He is a Nobel Laureate (the prizes are announced in October). Dan Shechtman (Chemistry 2011) was here to give a talk. In the 80s he discovered ‘quasi-crystals’. A crystal is defined as a structure where the atoms are arranged periodically and in a regular pattern. Dan discovered ‘crystals’ with long range order but no repeating unit, much like this:
This wasn’t just a discovery – it was a ‘controversial’ discovery. Fellow scientists accused him of faking results and used position to influence his career path. It took him two years to publish a proper paper with the results and another ten for widespread recognition. He even had to resign from his faculty position at the time. Sounds like a soap opera but it is the sad truth that even great scientists and in fact Nobel Laureates(Linus Pauling) could be so reluctant to accept new ideas. Shechtman took a dig at Pauling during his talk and even mentioned how his ideas were accepted properly after Pauling’s death in 1994. I got a bit nervous(and excited) at this moment; nervous that we might see an emotional outburst and badmouthing from a dignitary. Fortunately, the audience got to see two Dans – the frustrated man and – the resolute scientist. Here was a man well versed in his craft whose ideas had stood the test of time – Brilliant yet humble and very funny(at times).
Dan in real life
Also if you’ve ever been a student(of science, history,.. whatever) you must recall how your teachers were always nagging you to maintain organized/tidy notes– well Dan Shechtman sure did listen to his teachers. He showed us a page of his log book from the 80s when he made the discovery. The clear documentation helped him repeat his experiments and rule out silly errors(that he was accused of making by ‘experts’)
Must watch Movie # 6
This is one of my personal favourites. It stars Edward Norton(Walter) and Naomi Watts (Kitty). Norton plays a British bacteriologist stationed in China while Naomi plays an upper class socialite who wants to settle down with a wealthy husband. The unlikely pair meet, are attracted to each other, get married and move to Hong Kong. Kitty soon realizes that she doesn’t actually love the boring Walter and only married him to get away from her mother. She has an affair and gets caught. Perhaps to punish her or himself(?) he volunteers to help out a village facing a Cholera epidemic and decides the couple move there. Does this transform their lives?
I think the film shows us how we all want to live our lives with certain expectations. Walter marries kitty expecting her to be a loving wife even though he knows what a spoilt silly girl she is, Kitty always wants to get away from difficult situations and hopes that she’ll be happy by living with Walter and so on.
Also there is lovely music from Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter, The King’s Speech).