The Oscars of Academia: This Year and the Nobel Prizes

Every year, the scientific and literary communities anxiously await the announcement of arguably the most prestigious awards possible, the Nobel Prizes. Created by Alfred Nobel in 1901, the prizes are awarded each year in six different categories: Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature, Peace, and Economic Sciences. A maximum of three individuals or organizations can win the prize a year, although all three must be working in the same area. The competition is always fierce, and the Laureates (the winners) are often controversial. But without further ado, here are this year’s winners.

In Chemistry

The Laureates: Martin Karplus of Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford University, and Arieh Warshel of USC

For: The development of multi scale models for complex chemical systems.

Which Means: These three scientists developed a computer model that can predict how pharmaceuticals interact with their drug targets. This method allowed the chemists to observe what happened during a reaction by watching the simulation.

In Physics

The Laureates: François Englert of the Université Libre de Bruxelles and Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh

For: The theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of the mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Which Means: Remember the “god” particle everyone was talking about a few months back? This prize is all about that. The Higgs Boson is a type of particle theorized to exist within the Standard Model, which is a construct currently accepted by the science community. In concept, this particle gives everything else mass. This year, the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland confirmed the existence of this rare particle, and by extension further confirmed the Standard Model.

In Medicine

The Laureates: James E. Rothman of Yale University, Randy W. Schekman of UC Berkley, and Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University

For: Their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.

 

Which Means: All three of these scientists figured out different aspects of how cells get proteins from where they’re produced to where they need to be. This transportation system enables all cellular systems to properly function.

In Literature

The Laureate: Alice Munro

For: Mastery of the contemporary short story

Which Means: Alice Munro is a Canadian writer whose work investigates relationships among people, small towns, and memory. Known for her short stories, she is credited with giving the genre credibility as its own art form.

In Peace

The Laureate: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

For: Its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons

Which Means: Among the most controversial of the prizes, the Nobel Peace Prize this year was awarded to an organization, and specifically the organization in charge of destroying Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal. The focus of the Nobel Committee on disarmament in this contemporary and particularly relevant conflict is particularly interesting.

 

In Economic Sciences

The Laureates: Eugene F. Fama of the University of Chicago, Lars Peter Hansen of the University of Chicago, Robert J. Shiller of Yale University

For: Their empirical analysis of asset prices

 

Which Means: Asset prices can impact everything from how people choose to save money to how governments choose to influence economies. A bad analysis can create bubbles and crashes, a contributing factor to the recent economic crisis of 2008. The analysis conducted by these three economists shows that stock prices are extremely variable, and has raised questions about the rationality of stock buyers.

 

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Categories: Science & Tech

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