Today we’re going to talk about a topic some of you may know a lot about. Science.
Not seance. That’s something altogether different, and probably unscientific, unless we’re talking about science fiction, in which case anything goes. But I feel like I’ve gone off on a tangent here (there we go, tangents, those are science).
So when you’re searching for science, what better place is there to look than the home of lingonberry jam, lutefisk, and caviar in a tube? Yes, you guessed it, Missoula, Montana.
Just kidding, I’m talking about Sweden!
Sweden, that northern outpost of chilly smart people, was also home to two remarkable scientists working about a century apart with equally remarkable names.
First we find Svante Arrhenius. Professer Arrhenius did most of his work around the turn of the 20th century, specializing in physics and chemistry. Indeed, he is often referred to as one of the very founders of the science of physical chemistry. All you kids out there frustrated at your physics exams coming up, blame this guy.
In 1903 he became the first Swede to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. (There have been four others since in case you were wondering, including this year’s winner Tomas Lindahl). He then became a lifetime member of the Nobel committee on Physics, which decides on who receives the prizes. Like any honorable scientist would, Svante then proceeded to arrange for prizes to be given to his friends, and campaign against them going to people he didn’t particularly like. That’ll happen when you put humans in charge of anything really.
Remarkably, Svante Arrhenius was the first to develop a theory of how greenhouse gas concentrations could affect the Earth’s surface temperatures as far back as 1896. His theories and postulations on the matter wound up impacting the science up to this day.
Which brings us to our other Svante, the marvelously named Svante Pääbo. Pääbo is an evolutionary geneticist, which I believe means he looks at what people and creatures are made of and tries to figure out how they got that way. For instance, he was instrumental in sequencing the Neanderthal genome. This led to them concluding, among other things, that there was some interbreeding between Neanderthals and other humans. Probably made for interesting dinner parties back in the caveman days. I believe this also means that if you want to start a real life Jurassic Park, you should call this guy to extract the DNA from those bug thingies.
In 2007, Pääbo was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Perhaps that will inspire more people to name their children Svante now. The somewhat eccentric list also included chessmaster Garry Kasparov, Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, and General David Petraeus. Interesting company.
So there we have it. Two Svantes, much science. Let’s all celebrate their work today by heading out to IKEA and buying some Darpstorps.