January 6, 2014

Kung fu movie mogul Run Run Shaw dies at 107

The Hong Kong film producer Run Run Shaw, whose studio dominated kung fu movies before the rise of Bruce Lee, has died at 106 or 107. One of his few Hollywood credits is:
Blade Runner (co-executive producer - uncredited) 

In 2004, he started a Shaw Prize for math, astronomy, and life sciences to round out the Nobel Prizes.

The logic of creating new Nobel-Like prizes is obvious. Science is a good thing, and encouraging scientists with money and public esteem is a good thing. And the Nobels in physics, chemistry, and medicine/physiology don't cover enough of the scientific waterfront. And the world is full of rich guys who want their names to go down in history like Alfred Nobel's has.

Yet, my impression is that it's really hard for even very rich guys to get a new scientific prize off the ground in terms of public recognition. The Fields Prize in math has some public recognition despite not much money, and the MacArthur "genius" grants are widely recognized because of the word genius in their unofficial title. The "Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel" drafts along on the prestige of the real Nobels. But a lot of other prizes haven't really gone anywhere.

For example, the Crafoord Prize was started in 1980 to complement the Nobels. From Wikipedia:
The Crafoord Prize is an annual science prize established in 1980 by Holger Crafoord, a Swedish industrialist, and his wife Anna-Greta Crafoord. Administered by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the prize "is intended to promote international basic research in the disciplines: Astronomy and Mathematics, Geosciences, Biosciences, with particular emphasis on ecology, and Polyarthritis (rheumatoid arthritis)", the disease from which Holger severely suffered in his last years. According to the Academy, "these disciplines are chosen so as to complement those for which the Nobel Prizes are awarded".[1] Only one award is given each year, according to a rotating scheme – astronomy and mathematics; then geosciences; then biosciences.[1] A Crafoord Prize is only awarded for polyarthritis when a special committee decides that substantial progress in the field has been made.[1] The recipient of the Crafoord Prize is announced each year in mid-January; on Crafoord Day in April, the prize is presented by the King of Sweden, who also presents the Nobel Prize Awards at the ceremony in December.[1][2] The prize sum, which as of 2012 is 4,000,000 kr or US$600,000, is intended to fund further research by the prize winner.

But despite all this effort to make it just like the Nobels, the only time I can recall hearing of the 33-year-old Crafoord Prize is in the memoirs of its winners. Both Edward O. Wilson and William D. Hamilton were stoked to win "the Nobel Prize of biology," but it's not making much of a splash in America.

What would it take to get Nobel-like coverage of other fields than the blessed 3? 

18 comments:

agnostic said...

"Fields Medal"

Auntie Analogue said...


Shoot, y'all, I'm happy when I get my CrackerJack prize.

Anonymous said...

You have to respect the operators of the Shaw Prize. They definitely are not homers for the Chinese. Check out the list of winners. It resembles the list of Nobel winners if you know what I mean.

Nathan said...

Uncredited?? His name comes up in the title sequence, right after the Ladd Productions logo as "Sir Run Run Shaw."

Monroe Ficus said...

I was used to see his age on IMDB, and wondered if had died years ago, but his handlers clalimed he was alive to keep their jobs. I assume the same thing about Kirk Kerkorian, but then again I remember that Dannon yogurt ad with the Armenians who lived to be 120 (or were they Georgians?, and didnt they exaggerate their age to get out of the draft?)

Mr. Anon said...

The Wolf Prize is considered fairly prestigious.

anony-mouse said...

Astronomy is part of Physics and 'Life sciences' fits with Medicine and Physiology.

Geology? Paleontology? Botany/Zoology/Ag Science?

Reg C├Žsar said...

I can't wait to hear Derb's take on this.

jody said...

the lasker prize is somewhat known, as is the wolf prize.

prestige is what matters here, and pedigree, to some extent, confers prestige. though the lasker award has been around for 70 years and does not have much more prestige than the wolf prize which is only 30 or 40. the lasker is about twice as old and longstanding, but does not confer much more prestige upon being awarded.

similar situations exist in all award fields. the academy award is more prestigious than the golden globe which is more prestigious than the saturn.

even boxing has the same structure. the WBA or WBC belt means the most, then the IBF, then the WBO.

in many cases, winning one of the lower prestige awards is a prelude to winning the big one. not always, but often. opinion seems to converge from the bottom up here, with the top organization moving the slowest to confer the biggest prize on the consensus recipient. occasionally the top organization will move out into left field and award the big prize to a somebody who wasn't the consensus pick, or even on the radar. it's not clear whether this further reinforces their authority ("Trust us, we know better than you.") or diminishes it ("Who cares what you other guys think, this is what we think so nah nah, na nah nah.")

getting it wrong enough would seem to eventually reduce credibility, as is the case with the US supreme court, which now routinely gets it wrong. it's less clear, in fact, it's not clear at all anymore, whether the lower courts are performing the same ground up consensus building function that the awards committees in other fields perform. legal opinion seems to swing wildly every step up the court hierarchy ladder now, verdicts depending almost strictly on which court the case ends up in and much less on legal opinion convergence and prior precedent.

you could say the US court system has devolved into something similar to how movie or music critics operate.

"This album, er, I mean, this verdict rocks! Right on! Metallica wins the suit."

"No, totally wrong, it absolutely sucks. You must be crazy, prior ruling stricken. See you in State Supreme Court, where I know most of the Justices are Elvis Costello fans and will see this my way."

"Ha! Good luck with that. After your boys overturn it, then we'll bump it to the Supremes. I happen to know Kennedy and Roberts recently attended the DC Metallica show, so you guys are screwed. They will definitely overturn your state ruling in Metallica versus Costello, and will uphold that Metallica does, in fact, rule."

biff said...

>'How do you get Nobel-like coverage?'

Hot naked chicks. Deliver the prize, are seen with prize-winners, do stuff as part of the prize- I got your cancer researcher incentive right here!

Greg Pandatshang said...

(an observation, not a kvetch; which I worry won’t be clear through the internet): none of these rich people seem to be funding a Nobel-like prize in linguistics or history, which are my favorite subjects. History probably wouldn’t work because (perhaps) it’s too wide-ranging a field and because (very likely) the awards would end up being dominated by retro-Marxian post-feminist culture studies types. Linguistics is a bit more solid than that and I think it would benefit from a big prize awarded at least every few years that would honour, for example, Edward Vajda’s epochal, level-headed, and politically neutral work on Dene-Yeniseian. People complain about the purported Chomskyan postmodern domination of the field of linguistics, but I don’t think it’s really as bad as that; the Chomskyans are sometimes annoying but are not really in a position usually to shout down their detractors, who are more numerous. I don’t think Chomsky’s theories are nuts; I just think that his work is basically a different field than what normal linguists do. I don’t know whether Chomskyan theories really have a value or not; his field is not my field; but I don’t think they are incoherent prima facie. A big prize in linguistics might be wise to have separate awards for generative grammar and for normal linguistics, but I suspect they could figure out how to accommodate both in the same prize.

Anonymous said...

There's no business like shaw business.

Anonymous said...

Interesting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Harvest

Golden Harvest was a production company founded by men who used to work for Shaw.

And how did it make its fortune?

With masterpieces like these?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmnHlmg0BxA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UaAVJ7bH10

PT Barnum was right. Sucker born every minute.

Anonymous said...

Pritzker Prize in architecture seems to have gotten traction.

Anonymous said...

The Nobel peace prize and the economic prize should be retired to make room for real science.

Anonymous said...

none of these rich people seem to be funding a Nobel-like prize in linguistics or history, which are my favorite subjects.

Well they're important and interesting, but they're less objective and harder to validate. Math, medicine, physics, etc. are more straightforward: you can check the proof, see if the treatment works, run experiments, etc.

Phil Brunelleschi said...

It surprised me to learn the Pritzker Prize was only 100 grand. Of course only about 1 in 100 arch grads ever gets to design a building so nobody's in it for professional advancement anyway.

Anonymous said...

The secret piano prize is so hot right now