“Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Friends

A lot of praise has already been given to our work and the exciting new material graphene. We will certainly hear even more tribute as graphene’s impact on our lives becomes more and more obvious. So, let me refrain from further praise because today is also an occasion to celebrate something else.

The last decades were relatively peaceful and quiet for the planet. But with no obvious danger from outside, we are facing another danger, from inside. Instant information about everything and everyone often allows an individual opinion to compete with consensus and paranoia with evidence. It is a time when one blunt statement can finish a political career, and one journalist can bully a government or a royal family. Science is not immune from such pressures. For example, how many Nobel prize-winning experiments – you think – would have been stopped, if ethics or health-and-safety regulations at that time were as zealous as they are today? I can think of more than a few.

Human progress has always been driven by a sense of adventure and unconventional thinking. But amidst calls for "bread and circuses", these virtues are often forgotten for the sake of cautiousness and political correctness that now rule the world. And we sink deeper and deeper into a state of mediocrity and even idiocracy.

If you want an example, do not look any further than the research funding by the European Commission.

Against this backdrop I salute the Swedish Royal Academy for keeping the candle of merit alive. The great esteem in which the Nobel prizes are universally held is due to the fact that for several generations they have been given purely on scientific merit and not through lobbying and politicking. I do hope that it will stay this way and the prizes will never be given according to the number of votes in live TV contests!

Let me also thank the Royal family for lending their unwavering support to the great Nobel tradition. It is a great feeling to partake in these lavish celebrations that put scientific achievement on such a high pedestal. The generosity of the Nobel foundation and all the Swedish people contribute to making this prize so very special. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you all.”

The clarity in which Andre Geim illuminates the worrying state of affairs in our modern society, brings to mind two other prominent thinkers who, way ahead of their time and in their own way, were acutely aware of this “internal danger”:

"I do not understand why journalists and others want to know about the latest discoveries in physics even when they know nothing about the earlier discoveries that give meaning to the latest discoveries."

                                                                                                                                                                - Richard Feynman                            

"Can you rule a thinking man? We don't want any thinking men."


                                                                                   - Ayn Rand       (Hat tip: Katja)

Below follows the insightful speech given by the physics Nobel laurate Andre Geim at the 2010 Nobel prize dinner.

The live speech is also available for streaming here.

Daniel Persson

Associate Professor

Division of Algebra and Geometry

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Chalmers University of Technology