The making of Nobelity has been an amazing journey that began with some basic questions that seem to be on the minds of many people. Who should we believe in the debate over global warming? Will there be enough food and energy for a growing world? Can we conquer disease, hunger, poverty and war, or will they conquer us? What can I do to make the world a better place?
As a father, I was growing more and more worried about the kind of world my two girls will know, and was often frustrated by the viewpoints offered by media, business and politicians. I was wondering where else I could turn when I met fellow Austinite Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize winning physicist who I discovered had a talent for speaking in laymen’s terms on a wide variety of subjects.
Our conversations soon led me further afield. Steve’s common sense approach to global warming led me to Nanotechnologist Rick Smalley and his plan to solve the massive energy challenge ahead. Solve the energy crisis, Smalley explained, and you’ll find a path to solving many of the top problems facing us like clean drinking water and abundant food supplies. By this time, my mind was running wild with possibilities of what I could learn from other laureates, and how valuable their insights and knowledge could be to a world that often runs short on both commodities.
Over the course of the next eighteen months, I filmed conversations with nine Nobel laureates in the U.S., France, England, India and Africa, shooting a total of 150 hours of footage and thousands of still photos. The most moving of the meetings was with Sir Joseph Rotblat, 96-year-old nuclear physicist who fifty years ago earlier had joined with Albert Einstein in signing an open letter to the world calling for an end to nuclear proliferation. In Rotblat’s office in London, Sir Joe confided to me that the mission for the remaining days of his life was to fulfill the task that Einstein had left to him, and put America and the world back on the track to nuclear disarmament from which we have veered in recent years.
I’d been told that India would change me forever, and I didn’t really know what that meant until my journey to meet with Indian economist Amartya Sen led me to the street children of Calcutta, who always seemed to find a way to smile through the poverty that is ever-present in their lives.
Again and again I learned that the world’s problems are much larger than I’d thought, but I was also learning that there is much reason for hope. The answers are there, but we have to seek them out and act on them in a much more proactive fashion.