This is good news. Very good news.
Last night I was invited to attend the Intel Science Talent Search award banquet at the Ronald Reagan building in downtown Washington, DC.
Intel is the current sponsor of this event which began before the US entered World War II - in 1941. The finalists in the Science Talent Search have gone on to win every conceivable award in science including six Nobel Prizes.
There were 40 finalists - all high school students - who had worked their way through a process which began with 1,700 entrants. One of them was a young woman named Sarah Marzen of McLean, Virginia.
Ms. Marzen's project was entitled "On the Relationship Between Solute Size and Solvation Thermodynamics."
I had seen Sarah's name and project title in the materials I was provided by Intel's Diana Daggett and I had spent a good portion of the day prior to my going over to the event trying to remember if I had ever known anything about thermodynamics.
The answer was: No.
I was drawn to Ms. Marzen because she attends the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA. And because before that she had attended Haycock Elementary School and Longfellow Junior High in McLean, VA - both schools attended by The Lad before we hauled him down to Dallas, Texas.
I asked Sarah when she realized she had a gift for physics and math. She told me that it wasn't a moment; but that her sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Meade, encouraged her and her interest and talent grew from there.
I don't know Mrs. Meade, but if I had a gold star, she would get it.
The explanation of Sarah Marzen's project was this: She represented the placement of water around the solute as a probability distribution as opposed to a uniform distribution. These improvements suggest that hydrogen bond reordering may assist in understanding hydrophobic hydration of larger complex molecules.
Every one of the kids I talked to was poised, cheerful, articulate and … regular. Not one had the 2007 equivalent of a pocket protector.
Going through the bios of the 40 finalists, they play sports on their schools' teams. They play instruments in their schools' bands. They act in plays, they sing in choruses, they edit their schools' papers and do all the things that other kids do.
But they do things that other kids don't.
Intel is proud of what it does in this and other science and engineering competitions it sponsors for young people. Chairman Craig Barrett made the point during his remarks that the days of America leading the world by being the greatest producer of commodity products were over.