August 22, 2017

How to Win a Nobel Prize

As far as awards go it doesn’t get more prestigious than winning a Nobel prize and between the 6-13th October, a new round of Nobel laureates will be announced. Ever since its inception in 1895 in order to carry out Alfred Nobel’s will with the first awards in 1901,  the Nobel prize has recognised everyone who has ever made an impact in history, except Hitler but even he was nominated for the peace prize in 1939.  So after 113 years, 561 awards to 876 people and 22 organisations, I am proposing the start of what should become a planned national effort to have a Ghanaian win the Nobel prize because that is yet to happen and I would like to see it in my lifetime.

Wait! What about Kofi Annan and that Fauster guy?

Ok so Kofi Annan did win the Nobel peace prize in 2001 and that was a great accomplishment no doubt, however it doesnt count in my books and here is the reason why. In 2001 the Nobel Peace prize was a joint award presented to Kofi Annan and the United Nations. The fact the he was secretary general at the time overshadows the prize. Indeed the mere fact that he was in this position is an outstanding accomplishment but by making it a joint award, the awarding body leaves the impression that even if Gaddafi happened to be secretary general at the time, he would also be on the list of laureates.

Kofi and Fauster

Then there is Fauster Attah Mensah who I will always maintain is a genius in his own right but that award he is holding there is as fake as a 2 cedi coin. Nonetheless, he has achieved what many professional con men can only dream off and I think his efforts were even done part-time. Just in case you missed the whole thing, you can relive his interview on national TV below.

What prize should we go for then?

The first logical step is for us to target a category. The awards are given in Physics, Peace, Economics, Literature, Physiology/Medicine and Chemistry. Now lets be fair, the closest thing we have to a space station is faced with issues of land disputes so we can forget Physics. We could probably win the Peace prize if we put someone forward to lead troops into sorting out both Boko Haram  and Al Shabaab while incurring minimal casualties. Alternatively we could find out from President Barack Obama what he did to win the Peace prize in 2009 because that still puzzles some people. Despite the dire state of the Ghanaian economy, we could win the Nobel prize in Economics if a unique combination of conditions are met:

1. Someone came up with an amazing economic theory/policy and;

2. said someone is affiliated to the political party in power at the time of putting forward said theory/policy and;

3. said someone could have the chance to implement said theory and;

4. said theory turned around the economy in a matter of weeks.

Understandably that is a series of events with some more likely than others so we probably shouldn’t bank on it.

So how do we get a real prize that also counts?

The categories that remain could hold real promise for Ghana as a country.

Lets take Literature; this is awarded to an individual with an outstanding body of work chosen after a long process of nominations, reviews and votes. So far two South Africans (Nadine Gordimer  and John Maxwell Coetzee), a Nigerian (Wole Soyinka) and an Egyptian (Naguib Mahfouz) are the only Africans to have won the award. Although their works range from poetry and plays to full novels the one thing they all have in common is that they were all politically active and addressed the faults within their society both in and outside of their works.  With that in mind I say this piece from MutomboDaPoet proves he could well qualify in the future. Then again Uncle Ebo Whyte could always beat him to it.

Uncle Ebo

If we consider Physiology/Medicine and Chemistry this could be tricky but possible nonetheless. One option could involve a Ghanaian working as part of a team on research projects in America or Europe. Currently individuals such as Dr. Kwabena Boahen at Stanford university have really interesting projects with promise. In addition, the number of students that are migrating outside of Ghana means it is only a matter of time before one of us makes a great discovery. On the other hand, the second option will require traditional priests and herbalist to share the secrets of the herb and for funds be made available to research into these herbal remedies. We are literally sitting on a treasure trove and with a bit of direction and investment, who knows what we could discover.

Do we have any other options?

Yes we do and this goes for every other country that wants a Nobel prize laureate for its history books; the Ig Nobel prizes. These are awarded as a parody of the actual Nobel prizes and “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think”. In the past this has been awarded for research such as;

  • Carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines. (2013)
  • For discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually by seeing photographs of their anogenital regions (their behinds). (2012)
  • For discovering that coca-cola is an effective spermicide. (2008)

And my personal favourite was in 2005 the Ig Nobel prize for Literature,

  • “Presented to the Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters—General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sani Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others—each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them”

Based on this criteria and all the amazing folklores, taboos and idosyncracies common in Ghana we could win this Ig Nobel award with a focused effort. Here are a few topics which could be researched:

  • Why should pregnant women not eat snails?
  • What is the correlation between the thickness of a Milo drink and how long it takes ants to reach a spill?
  • Why did the chicken (or dog/cat/cow/goat/lizard) cross the road?
  • Does waakye (rice and beans) taste better when served in plates or leaves?

And my personal favourite which I intend on applying for research funds from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly,

  • Demolishing homes or clearing street waste; which is better at preventing the spread of cholera?

We are open to hearing your own proposals for research in the comments section.

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