Ever since I’ve been being invited to the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes I’ve regarded it as a great privilege to attend – even if I have to fly myself to Canberra and back. Almost invariably the people who win the prizes are just turned on by what they’re doing, hugely good at it and a lesson to us all. My favourites are the prizes for school teachers.
My favourite this year was Brooke Topleberg a primary school science teacher. The video above is instructive but the speeches are usually even better – alas, though they were filmed they’re not up on YouTube from what I can see.
Anyway one highlight was that Brian Schmidt was a guest and we got to show our appreciation for his recently awarded Nobel Prize. But blow me down. Now I don’t know about you but I reckon winning a Nobel Prize is worth a standing ovation. I looked around and couldn’t see anyone standing. And to my shame I stayed down myself.
I often find I feel like giving standing ovations when I really want to show how fantastic I think something is. But usually don’t want to look silly so wait – and then the moment passes. Anyway things changed at my daughter’s final music concert. The musical director Mrs Cousins had been desperately ill and indeed in a coma for many weeks a few months previously – it was literally touch and go. But she’d made it through and had recovered enough to be presented at the concert. As she hobbled up to the stage I thought “bugger this” and just rose to my feet and clapped. It took a surprising few seconds but a few more people rose and then the thing was pretty much done and dusted with most people giving her a standing ovation.
Anyway our newest Nobel Laureate did at least get a pointedly lengthy bout of applause when he was presented to us at the dinner and in the break after entree I circulated and asked most people I met “So what does it take to get a standing ovation in this country?” What is it with our concern for conformity – we’re not an ungenerous lot? Everyone agreed and some said they’d wanted to stand but had done what I’d done.
But this story has a happy ending. After the main course Brian Schmidt was invited to address us – which he did with great aplomb. And as he was introduced I simply stood up in my place and gesticulated all around to get up off their arses and show the guy how happy we are about what he’d achieved. And as I looked around it was clear that I wasn’t even the first one to stand.
Another standing ovation successfully delivered!