/ NEWS: British Climber Michael Kosterlitz awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

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Postmanpat on 04 Oct 2016
So I was listening to the radio today saying that a British bloke called Mike Kosterliz had been awarded the nobel prize for physics and absent-mindedly wondered if he was related to the Mike Kosterlitz who put up the Isherwood/Kosterlitz route in the Dolomites back in the 60s together with doing a lot of other hard stuff.

Turns out he's not just related. He is that man. I'm sure some of the old hands on here knew him.

Congratulations!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37486373
Post edited at 17:50

HosteDenis on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

Is he also the man after which the famous Valle dell'Orco Kosterlitz-crack was named?
Rick Graham on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to HosteDenis:

Yes.

He taught a country how to jam

Nice jamming problem BTW, just remember to keep clear of the power cable draped near the boulder top.
Postmanpat on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to HosteDenis:

Yes, here is a bit of background to his influence on Italian climbing, cut and pasted from a post by Luca a few years back:

The Nuovo Mattino had a serious and very much defined British initial link, as the whole really thing began by the chance meeting between Mike Kosterlitz and the "founding fathers" of Nuovo Mattino - Giampiero Motti and Giancarlo Grassi (and, to a lesser extent, Ugo Manera)

In 1972, Mike was a student in Torino, at the Polytechnic School. Legend says that one day he dropped in the CAI headquarter in Torino (in Via Monte di Pietà) saying that he was looking for some climbing partner. He was immediately forwarded to Giampiero, who - by chance - was one of the few climber in Turin speaking fluent English.

At the time Giampiero Motti was a young instructor at the Gervasutti climbing school (a prestigious institution, but really a "temple" of tradition), and has already a string of important repeats in the Alps, including the first ever solo of the Gervasutti pillar at the Tacul. He came from a well to do family, and was nicknamed "the Prince" because of his extremely good manners, his elegant climbing style, and his interest on oriental philosophies. He was also quite bored and disappointed with the state of Italian climbing, which was very much stuck into a huge post-Bonatti hangover, whose "values" were still those of the 30's - the nationalism, the heroism at all costs, etc. Giampiero had also a complex personality - he was very popular with girls and friends, and extremely intelligent and articulate, but was also haunted by personal issues, who in the end, led to his downfall year later.

Speaking English, he had already dived into the extensive collection of British and American climbing literature available at the CAI National Library (in Turin), had had become interested (in fact, a bit obsessed) by the writings of people like Doug Robinson ("“The Climber as Visionary") and generally the type of stuff that was published at the time on "Ascent" and "Mountain". He became convinced that the limits more or less self imposed by the traditional European climbing ethics were all but killing climbing as a creative activity, and that the future was in the Yosemite and British scene. Looking for some place where to replicate that kind of climbing, he had come to find the Orco valley (near Turin) and the immense wall of Balma Fiorant, which he had re-christened "El Caporal" (the reference to the Capitan is obvious). He had already opened (with Grassi and Manera) one route there, but there was something obviously missing.

The '72 meeting between Giampiero and Giancarlo with Kosterlitz had enormous implications. Mike was a relatively taciturn person, and not much inclined to brag, but it was obvious he had already climbed a lot of big Alpine classics. Moreover, he wasn't making such a big deal of all this (quite the reverse of the typical attitude of the time), and he had the potential to teach a lot to local climbers.

This is how Giancarlo Grassi described Kosterlitz (I'm taking this from Maurizio Oviglia's "Rock Paradise"): "The meeting with Kosterlitz was for me the turning point, the embryo from where it grew a change in my view of the meaning of climbing. Mike was bringing with him, and his climbs a pleasant sport dimension, far from rhetoric-drenched, and devoid of any cliché. He did much to desecrate a lot of our views of the "extremely difficult", but he was aware of his own limits. To see him climbing was a free demonstration that a technical evolution was still possible. He was an exceptional climber, but most important, he was a climbing in a way that was different..."

Motti enlisted Kosterlit (and Manera) for another to the Orco Valley at the Torre di Aimonin (near the Caporal), and the result was "Pesce D'Aprile" (April's Fool), the first route in the Italian Alps entirely opened with nuts. Nineteen days later, on the Caporal wall, Motti returned this time with Kosterlitz and Grassi and the result was the "Sole Nascente" line, the first masterpiece of this "new" European climbing, and the symbol of the Nuovo Mattino. EVERYTHING that happened later in Continental Europe - sport climbing, "free" climbing, climbing competitions, it comes from that event.
Greenbanks - on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

Doesn't one of the pics in the original 'Hard Rock' feature him?
Postmanpat on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Greenbanks:

> Doesn't one of the pics in the original 'Hard Rock' feature him?

Just checked. Yes, on Gormenghast, with a lot of hair!
Robert Durran - on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

> The Isherwood/Kosterlitz route in the Dolomites back in the 60s together with doing a lot of other hard stuff.

There is also the hard and rarely repeated Isherwood/Kosterlitz route on the Piz Badile (unless that is the one you were thinking of).


Postmanpat on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Robert Durran:

> There is also the hard and rarely repeated Isherwood/Kosterlitz route on the Piz Badile (unless that is the one you were thinking of).

I think it was!
Doug on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

"“He was an absolutely mad climber. He disappeared every weekend to go mountain climbing in the Peak District,” Fersht said. But Kosterlitz was not content with the trips. “He lived on Tree Court, and he built a traverse around the room where he would climb using his fingers and hanging on to the picture rail.”

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/oct/04/david-thouless-duncan-haldane-and-michael-kosterlitz...
HansStuttgart - on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:
thanks for sharing that! Very nice to know that he was a climber too.

I'd really appreciate it if someone could send me a copy of that picture from hard rock.

It will be fun to use during lectures I'll teach this year about his theory.

Hans
boschkerhans6@gmail.com
Post edited at 19:41
Postmanpat on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to HansStuttgart:
You have mail.

No you don't.Keeps bouncing back. You can mail me through UKC
Post edited at 20:21
Dave Garnett - on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

I used to run into him occasionally on the Bournbrook Wall at Birmingham University. He was a lecturer there when I was first an undergraduate in the late 70's. He always seemed a bit wild and woolly with a vague reputation of being a bit of a hardman... I didn't spot that he was a genius too!
johncoxmysteriously - on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

Not the first British-born climber to win a Nobel prize for physics, of course.......anyone like to name the first?

jcm
Dave Garnett - on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

He of the eponymous ceiling, you mean?
John2 - on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
William Shockley. British born, to American parents.
Post edited at 20:41
jcw on 04 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

Absolutely delighted to hear this news, for two reasons. First I used to travel up with him regularly to N Wales when he and Berit were at Oxford in the mid 60s and even cadge a climb off him, but more importantly because I had heard long ago that he was seriously ill with some motor neuron or similar disease and presumed that was the end,
. Clearly not so, Thank God. Can anyone throw light on this story?
Dave Garnett - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to jcw:

Yes, I do seem to remember something about him not climbing so much because of some health problem, but that was ages ago.
winhill - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Not the first British-born climber to win a Nobel prize for physics, of course.......anyone like to name the first?

> jcm

or the second?
malk - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Higgs has climbed a few mountains? is he the second or third?
Robert Durran - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to malk:
> Higgs has climbed a few mountains? is he the second or third?

He said he came up with his big idea while walking in the Cairngorms didn't he?
Post edited at 11:14
malk - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

shame the best tend to emigrate- he left Birmingham for US just before i studied there.
Mike was also climbing in yosemite in '66 : http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/2882575/Mike-Kosterlitz-climber-and-Nobel-prize-winner (wonder if he ever met John Gill?)

wiki page needs expanding methinks.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Kosterlitz

winhill - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to Robert Durran:

> He said he came up with his big idea while walking in the Cairngorms didn't he?

He's dismissed that as a myth.

I was thinking of Anthony Leggett.
malk - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to winhill:
good call -never heard of him. there are some interesting characters on the prize list eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Josephson
wonder how many ideas were thought up with help of psychoactive substances?
Post edited at 14:20
Hidden User 56 on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Not the first British-born climber to win a Nobel prize for physics, of course.......anyone like to name the first?

> jcm

Paul Dirac?

Andy F
Richard J - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to winhill:

It's said, plausibly I think, that CTR Wilson got the idea for his Cloud Chamber on top of Ben Nevis. I'm not sure how much of a climber he was though.
Richard J - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to malk:

Kary Mullis (chemistry Nobel 1993 for PCR) is your man for LSD. Brian Josephson was certainly unorthodox but I don't think he ever talked about psychedelics (I occasionally had a cup of tea with him when I worked in the Cavendish Lab).
Jaytaylor - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to winhill:

Henry Way Kendall ?

planetmarshall on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to Richard J:


> Kary Mullis (chemistry Nobel 1993 for PCR) is your man for LSD.

Mullis definitely straddles the genius/madness line. His autobiography is quite the eye opener.
planetmarshall on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to Doug:

> "He disappeared every weekend to go mountain climbing in the Peak District,”

A borderline miraculous achievement that deserves more than a Nobel, surely.
1
ads.ukclimbing.com
davidbeynon on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to planetmarshall:

Are you telling me that Kinder Scout isn't a mountain?

I can present proof! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kinder-Scout-Portrait-Roly-Smith/dp/0903463687

Or is the disappearance the miraculous element? Invisibility is tricky I'll grant you.

Luca Signorelli - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

Hi guys everyone here in the Italian climbing scene is REALLY excited at the idea Mike won the Nobel. His name is still well known, in particular by everyone who climbs in Orco. It's a pity almost all his Italian climbing partners of that era are not here anymore (one of the last, Roberto Bonelli, died last month in a freak abseil accident). But still great to see Mike becoming worldwide famous, even if not for his climbing achievements!
cb294 - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to Richard J:

Mullis is your class A freak. I actually met him several times, at events that got slightly out of and.

CN
cb294 - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to Luca Signorelli:

Hey, good to see you again on here!

CB
Turfty on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to jcw:

Just started reading your book (which I am really enjoying) yesterday and knew I was missing something in not understanding the reference to "Mike Kosterlitz trying to explain his theorem".
duncan b - on 06 Oct 2016
In reply to Richard J:
> Brian Josephson was certainly unorthodox but I don't think he ever talked about psychedelics (I occasionally had a cup of tea with him when I worked in the Cavendish Lab).

I went to the same school as Brian Josephson. It was rumoured that the school tried to get him to come back to give a talk but all he wanted to talk about was eastern mysticism so the school gave it a miss. Shame, I would have been pretty pyched as a teenager to hear a talk from a Nobel laureate and fellow taffy!
Post edited at 11:11
Mick Ward - on 06 Oct 2016
In reply to Rick Graham:

> He taught a country how to jam

Beautiful. And a Nobel prize in Physics is the cherry on the icing on the cake.

Mick

Rick Graham on 06 Oct 2016
In reply to Mick Ward:

"Motti enlisted Kosterlit (and Manera) for another to the Orco Valley at the Torre di Aimonin (near the Caporal), and the result was "Pesce D'Aprile" (April's Fool), the first route in the Italian Alps entirely opened with nuts. Nineteen days later, on the Caporal wall, Motti returned this time with Kosterlitz and Grassi and the result was the "Sole Nascente" line, the first masterpiece of this "new" European climbing, and the symbol of the Nuovo Mattino. EVERYTHING that happened later in Continental Europe - sport climbing, "free" climbing, climbing competitions, it comes from that event."

Better than that, according to Luca he inspired a continent how to climb!
Mick Ward - on 06 Oct 2016
In reply to Rick Graham:

He always seemed one of those tantalisingly enigmatic figures... an inspiration to all of us with what he's achieved.

Mick
French Erick - on 07 Oct 2016
In reply to HosteDenis:

I cannot comprehend what is research is about... Being an art graduate but I've been to the val dell'Orco 3 times now! His fessura has provided so much late pm fun! Some people are clearly gifted on many levels.
planetmarshall on 07 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

Just been reading the press release from Brown -

Kosterlitz is the Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of Physics at Brown...

Good news everyone! (Apologies to non-Futurama fans).
malk - on 07 Oct 2016
In reply to French Erick:

what has happened to the new scientist? i'm none the wiser after watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMvKRBt1-bw
this guy explains it better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfeahFDlDMw
malk - on 07 Oct 2016
In reply to Postmanpat:

here's the press conference at Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mY_dSjumDs
JJL - on 07 Oct 2016
In reply to Luca Signorelli:

Yaaaaaaay! Luca!

We've missed you!
malk - on 07 Oct 2016
In reply to malk:
> here's the press conference at Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mY_dSjumDs

disappointing that no questions were asked about climbing even though he listed his priorities as
mountaineering
physics
family

maybe ukc could scoop a climbing interview?;)
Post edited at 13:25
In reply to malk:

I'm on it, although I suspect Michael is very busy just now with emails flooding in!

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