There is a lovely story in the NY TIMES today about this year's group of forty Intel Science Talent search finalists, who will compete in Washington for scholarships that rise to a first prize of $100,000. Readers of the very first chapter of my Memoir will recall that the Intel, originally the Westinghouse, Science Talent Search is a competition for high school seniors, each of whom must take a general science exam and do an original science research project. My faithful readers will also perhaps recall that in 1948, shortly after the competition was inaugurated, my big sister, Barbara, was the grand national girl winner [as they then were called] of the competition.
What catches the eye in the TIMES story is the size of the prizes. Barbara, as top winner, was awarded a scholarship of $2400, which actually paid most of her bills for four years at Swarthmore College [from which she graduated with a summa in math, by the way.] The CPI calculator I located online converts that into a tad less than $23,000 in today's depreciated currency, which shows that Intel has indeed upped the prizes dramatically.
But of course the real news is the brief description in the story of the projects the top forty presented to the judges. They all seem to have done work that would have won Nobel prizes or the like half a century ago! The speed with which especially the biological sciences have progressed in that period is truly astonishing.
I often reflect that deeply religious science deniers, who consider it a mark of their faith to insist that evolution is a hoax and the earth only ten thousand years old, completely miss the true wonder of what they consider God's creation.