JOHN MATHER ON YOUTUBE: NASA AND NOBEL FOUNDATION IN BED TOGETHER

Recently the Swedish Nobel Foundation announced that they are launching a YouTube-style program called “Ask a Nobel Laureate.” People would video a sixty second question addressed to a particular Nobel Laureate, and upload it on the NobelTube. Later, a Nobel Laureate would answer a selection of these questions on the NobelTube. This fantastic program is being inaugurated by a fantastic Nobel Laureate, NASA’s very own John Cromwell Mather.

Now, the Nobel Foundation says in their PR they are launching this program “with the assistance of NASA”. But in his introductory piece on the NobelTube, John Mather says in clear enunciation that this program is being “brought to you by Nobelprize.org and NASA.”

There seems to be some confusion here. “With assistance from NASA” may mean no more than that a low level Facilities Manager has routinely permitted the use of NASA videoconference facility for this purpose. But what Mather says clearly avers that this is an equal collaboration between the two organizations – determined at their highest levels. That is to say, NASA Administrator Gen. Charles Bolden and Nobel Foundation CEO Michael Sohlman – or their representatives – have got together or talked together and decided to launch this worldwide program, after due deliberation in each organization.

By clear implication, this would say publicly that Mather’s status in NASA is not in anyway under a cloud.

That may well be so. But if that is the case, I am at a loss to understand why Gen. Bolden continues to keep Mather in the doghouse where Bolden’s predecessor Michael Griffin had put Mather.

The great man continues to remain in his pre-Nobel job status of three years ago. There is no visible indication that NASA Management seeks his advice or counsel on any scientific matters. He has in fact lost a couple of advisory board memberships since receiving his Nobel Prize.

Yo Gen. Bolden! Have you heard this Corsican proverb, man?

A volpi perdi u pelu ma micca u viziu.
(A fox can lose his fur but not his cunning.)

And Confucius say:

He who let cunning fox lead him shall not arrive at the Inn of Sixth Happiness.


A NOTE ADDED ON 8 DECEMBER 2009

If the NASA leadership truly wanted to reaffirm John Mather, there is no more emphatic and no more resounding way for them to do so than to take him out of the doghouse. As of this day, Mather continues to remain in the doghouse. So disregard this pathetic move by the Nobel Foundation, and watch the doghouse!

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