Category Archives: Noble drawings

Alain sous tous ses Aspect

Alain Aspect just received an amply deserved Nobel prize in Physics – adding one drawing to my collection of Nobel Prize drawings

Drawing by Alain Aspect (2010)

I recall bumping on him at the cafeteria at Ecole Polytechnique back in the days, and asking him questions which he often dismissed in two sentences…

Incidentally, the last time I went there in December 2019 to visit my friend Franck Delmotte (Director of study at Institute of Optics Graduate School), he was just besides us.

Alain Aspect at the Ecole Polytechnique cafeteria on December 17, 2019

I trawl the terahertz

Last year I’ve discovered Paddy McAloon’s re-edition of “I Trawl the Megahertz” (published as Prefab Sprout) in happenstance. I was listening to Spotify, and this beautiful instrumental piece showed up, with hesitating strings and a cold voice, which was not too dissimilar to Woodkid’s On Then and Now which I had been drawn to earlier in the season.

This gradually became my favorite album of the year (other great songs are in there, such as I’m 49.) Now that the virus is crawling and the internet functions at the Terahertz speeds, we’ve gone full circle.

Continue reading

Art by Art

Back in november, I met Art McDonald, who had bee recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (together with Takaaki Kajita), for its research in determining whether neutrinos have a mass or not– now we know they do, but we don’t know how much !

His big tool, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) has a cool name, and I asked him to draw a snowflake. He wasn’t very sure how to do it, but he had a pin’s to help him :

Art MacDonald Drawing

Art MacDonald’s drawing

That’s a great addition to my collection ! I thought Jennifer Doudna would be promoted to the list too, but… not yet!


The other day, I had the chance to stumble on Jennifer Doudna in Stanley Hall… And I asked her for a drawing !

Jennifer Doudna's drawing

Jennifer Doudna’s drawing

Jennifer Doudna is well-known for her discovery, with her postdoc Martin Jinek and Emmauelle Charpentier, of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, that allows live gene editing.

It might not seem that crazy, but it’s a total game changer (Radiolab had a good story about it recently). The thing is that until now, to modify the genes, one had to change the germ cell and create a new living being : an already existing being could not have its DNA reprogrammed. But now, you can cure genetic diseases and target specific genes that you would like to change (I don’t know if you can change the colors of your eyes by that process, but who really cares ?)

This of course brings a lot of ethical questions that they try to tackle— I can’t help but to  imagine how terrible a biological weapon targeting a population through specific would be.

For her work, DouDNA and Charpentier were awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Science, a prestigious prize put together by Yuri Milner and others. She will probably be promoted to my Nobel Prize list soon:)

edit November 10th :

No Nobel Prize this year, but another Breakthrough prize, from optogenetics !
Watch the related Breakthrough Symposium talks
And another piece in the New Yor Times : the CRISPR quandary.

A cool atom

Hi peeps,

Today, I had the chance to be there for a talk given by Steven Chu.
It was a strange talk, with two topics : superresolution imaging and climate change.
I didn’t really get the picture, but I made one :

Steven Chu and George Smoot

Two Nobel Prize winners in the same frame (Chu and Smoot), taken from an handheld smartphone.
And the lab director, Paul Alivisatos

As usual, I’ve asked him a for a drawing.
Since he did a lot of work on laser cooling, I asked him for a “cool atom” :


Steven Chu’s and Paul Alivisatos’s drawings

Since Paul Alivisatos was around, I also asked him for a contribution.
I thought a quantum dot would do the work !

check-out the other drawings I’ve collected here !

Strawberry fields forever

Today, I was lucky enough to go to the screening of “How I Came to Hate Maths” in Berkeley, where I had the occasion to ask Jean-Pierre Bourguigon and Cedric Villani for a drawing.

Here’s what came out of it.

First, I asked Cedric for a drawing of a spider in a truck, for he his well known for his work on optimal transport, and because he has the habit of wearing a spider broach. He added his signature, a marsupilami– not bad for a Fields medal recipient !

Then, I asked Jean-Pierre to draw me a spectrum, since it is, to me, what relates physics and mathematics the most

A spectrum, by Jean-Pierre Bourguigon and a spider in a truck by Cedric Villani

A spectrum, by Jean-Pierre Bourguigon and a spider in a truck by Cedric Villani

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Two new Nobel drawings ! (… and uncharted drawings)

I’ve been working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab for a year now, and I wanted to get drawings from the two Nobel prizes that are still active in the lab : George Smoot (N2006) and Saul Perlmutter (N2011).

They both proved very difficult to find, since they are often travelling. But today, the day before Thanksgiving, I was particularly in luck : I spotted these two guys at the cafeteria !

The time I came back to my office to grab my notebook, Saul Perlmutter was gone, but George Smoot was still here !
I asked him to draw me a picture of the Cosmic Microwave Background. Here’s the result :

Smoot's drawing

Smoot’s drawing

However, Saul Perlmutter had left. But… I knew where his office was. I went there; we talked a little bit.
A little earlier on, my friend Josquin told me that I would rather ask him a picture of a Supernova, probably easier to draw that the idea of universe expansion. Saul told me that this picture wouldn’t be personal, since his mind has been infused by the commonly accepted picture, and proposed to draw me a chart of the accelerating universe :

Perlmutter's drawing

Perlmutter’s drawing

There we go ! (You can check my collection of noble drawings here)

Last month, I had the occasion to attend Uncharted, advertised as the local SXSW, thanks to a scholarship.

Continue reading

Artists and Nobels

When I read “Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (that I mentionned in this post), he mentioned the existence of, maintained by John Brockman, and the fact the he (DK) was asked by the latter to give his favorite equation.

It turns out that John Brockman has many wonderful connections and asked that same question to a whole bunch of great scientists.

Brockman’s self formula

Together with the Serpentine gallery, they curated the collection “What is your formula ».
This is astonishingly similar to what I try to do with the drawings I get when I encounter a Nobel prize, except that I actually get drawings, instead of formulas (and I’m almost sure my list is bigger than his !).

Continue reading

Bruce Alberts’s drawing

Yesterday, I went to a talk given at LBNL by Bruce Alberts on “Science and World’s Future“.

It was an interesting retrospective of the work done by Bruce Alberts all along his career, focused on public outreach (for those who do not know, he was the Editor-in-Chief of Science journal, the president of the US National Academy of Science for 12 years and the author of the bible in Molecular Cell Biology).

He explained his efforts in introducing “critical thinking” education in US schools, and gave some examples which I found very interesting, since I interested in science public outreach myself
–Eh, you know what ? I’m a tour guide for LBNL now !

Bruce Alberts's drawing

Bruce Alberts’s drawing

He was a obviously a good candidate for a drawing ! He is not a Nobel prize himself, but he was definitely a Nobel prize maker…
I’ve asked him to draw me a torch, since he ended his talk with a quote of Louis Pasteur :

Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.

It’s fun the he also quotes Pasteur, like Richard Hamming who quoted the pseudo-Randian :

Chance favors only the prepared mind.

Now that in Berkeley, I really need to get a drawing from George Smoot (building 50-5007, he was in the thesis committee of a friend of mine), Saul Perlmutter (building 50-5038; his daughter is the friend a of colleague;-) , the previous director of the lab and former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, the current director of the lab Paul Alivisatos (a Nobel-Prize-to-be ?), and maybe catch-up with Charles Townes, who’s old an often seen at the church in Berkeley, who was the first person I ever asked to draw me something and the only person who ever refused….


Serge Haroche won the Nobel Prize !

+1 in my Nobel Prize Drawings Collection !

Serge Haroche's – met in Paris, 2010