Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama invited America’s Nobel Prize winners to the White House most years, to celebrate their achievements and thank them for their discoveries. This year, the American winners of Nobels in physics, chemistry, economics and physiology were lauded at the Swedish Embassy in Washington.
The White House didn’t give a firm reason for this, using the president’s travel schedule as an excuse. But like scientists, we can hypothesize. Perhaps Mr. Trump, who has canceled the White House Science Fair, appointed a radio talk show host as the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist and nobody at all as White House science adviser, isn’t big on research’s value to society.
The Nobel winners weren’t exactly beating down the White House door hoping to get in. The biophysicist Joachim Frank, awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in microscopy, said he was “relieved” not to be visiting Mr. Trump. Referring to his fellow American laureates, he said, “I strongly believe that as thinking, intelligent people, they will have a similar attitude as I.”
After all, imagine how intimidating it could be even for celebrated geniuses to match wits with Mr. Trump, who has noted, “I have a very good brain,” and “I’m a very intelligent person.”
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne, members of the LIGO-Virgo detector collaboration that discovered gravitational waves. According to the Nobel Committee: “The waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, came from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO” — the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory detector in the United States. The LIGO registered the wave as a tone nicknamed the “cosmic chirp.”
Try explaining why a tiny, far-off chirp should matter to Mr. Trump, who has been known to blast off half a dozen tweets before most people even arrive at their LIGOs in the morning.