Archive for the ‘Nobel Prize’ Category

A story in 3 maps: EU and NATO push and Russia pushes back

March 19, 2014

It is the play of simple geopolitical forces which itself is based on the drawing of lines on maps. The creeping expansion eastwards of the EU and NATO has given little thought to the response it must inevitably invite. I put much of the Ukrainian crisis down to the thoughtless behaviour of the EU. That behaviour itself is inevitable given that foreign policy in the EU is driven by a confused mix of 28 countries and by the insatiable bureaucratic hunger in Brussels for an ever-increasing bureaucracy by including ever-more countries into the pot (providing that they are non-muslim). The rush to expansion is – in part – the reason why the EU is mired for so long in the financial crisis. With 28 countries involved policy is often clumsy and heavy-handed with little place for nuance and diplomatic skill.

The current breaking point was reached when the EU (aiding and abeting the US in the expansion of NATO) clumsily encouraged internal dissent in the Ukraine and activated the far-right, neo-Nazi forces. Did they really expect no response? And does the EU really want to be associated with the neo- Nazis of Ukraine who are carrying on their traditions from the 1940’s? I think it was the rise of the neo-Nazis as the final straw which Russia found unacceptable. I find the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU a travesty and only confirms that the Peace Prize tarnishes the Nobel brand.

Today the response is in the Crimea. Logically, the EU and NATO expansion pressure will invite Russia to exercise even more control over the Eastern Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and Turkmenistan.

1. Expansion of the EU.

2. Expansion of Nato

nato expansion (image mike faille)

nato expansion (image mike faille)

3. Where will Russia push-back?

where next for Russia

where next for Russia

Could Chemistry Nobel today go to evolutionary genetics?

October 10, 2012

UPDATE! Awarded to Robert J Lefkowitz and to Brian K Kobilka for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors“.

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Thomson Reuters predicts conventional areas of research for the Chemistry Nobel

1. Louis E. Brus

For discovery of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals (quantum dots)

2. Akira Fujishima

For the discovery of photocatalytic properties of titanium dioxide (the Honda-Fujishima Effect)

and

3. Masatake Haruta and Graham J. Hutchings

For independent foundational discoveries of catalysis by gold

But Swedish Radio is predicting / hoping that it might be awarded to a Swedish scientist Svante Pääbo who is himself the son of a Nobel laureate. He is Director, Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. In February 2009 the Max Planck Institute completed the first draft version of the Neanderthal genome. In 2010 they discovered the Denisovan genome. The techniques developed by Pääbo and his team for the DNA analysis of ancient specimens is what might be acknowledged.

Physics Nobel today – update — awarded to Haroche and Wineland

October 9, 2012

UPDATE 2!

Well the rumours were wrong and the prize has been awarded to Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the US.

UPDATE: There is a rumour doing the rounds in Sweden this morning that the Physics prize will go to Alain Aspect of France and Anton Zeilinger of Austria.

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There is still some speculation that the Physics Nobel to be announced today could go to Higgs and CERN scientists for the much-hyped,  “non-discovery” of the Higgs Boson but somehow I doubt it.

 Thomson Reuters proposes three possible winners:

1. Charles H. Bennett, Gilles Brassard and William K. Wootters

For their pioneering description of a protocol for quantum teleportation, which has since been  experimentally verified

2. Leigh T. Canham

For discovery of photoluminescence in porous silicon

 3.Stephen E. Harris and Lene V. Hau

For the experimental demonstration of electromagnetically induced transparency (Harris) and of  ‘slow light’ (Harris and Hau)

There is an outside chance that it may be awarded for work straddling Physics and Chemistry – in the world of  nano-particles perhaps.

Economics Nobel goes to Sargent and Simms as one financial crisis is followed by the next

October 10, 2011

This year’s Economics Nobel has been awarded to Thomas J. Sargent,  William R. Berkley Professor of Economics and Business, New York University and Christopher A. Sims, Harold B. Helms Professor of Economics and Banking at Princeton University, “for their empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy”.

Press Release:

Considering the financial troughs and valleys of the last decade one would be justified in thinking economics to be a “black art” rather than a science. Economists blame greedy bankers and profligate and irresponsible governments (read politicians) while the bankers and speculators blame the inaccurate and arrogant economists and their flawed models. Alan Greenspan was a darling of the right and is now seen as being one of the key individuals responsible for the sub-prime fiasco. Paul Krugman, a noted critic of George Bush, won the Nobel prize in 2008 for his work (or perhaps his obsession) with international trade. Yet his solutions for the sub-prime crisis seem simplistic, have been heavily criticised and don’t seem to work.

There is a school of thought that Economics should never have been elevated to the status of the Nobel prize.  It is not one of the Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, but is commonly identified with them. Officially it is the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel and was first awarded in 1969.

In his speech at the 1974 Nobel Banquet Friedrich Hayek stated that if he had been consulted whether to establish a Nobel Prize in economics he would

“have decidedly advised against it” ….  primarily because “the Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess. .. This does not matter in the natural sciences. Here the influence exercised by an individual is chiefly an influence on his fellow experts; and they will soon cut him down to size if he exceeds his competence. But the influence of the economist that mainly matters is an influence over laymen: politicians, journalists, civil servants and the public generally.”

2011 Chemistry Nobel awarded to Prof. Dan Shechtman for the discovery of quasi-crystals

October 5, 2011

The Nobel prize for Chemistry 2011 has been awarded to Prof. Dan Shechtman, Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion for the discovery of quasi-crystals.

Dan Schechtman

Daniel Shechtman, Israeli citizen. Born 1941 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Ph.D. 1972 from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel. Distinguished Professor, The Philip Tobias Chair, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.

The official press release states:

A remarkable mosaic of atoms

In quasicrystals, we find the fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms: regular patterns that never repeat themselves. However, the configuration found in quasicrystals was considered impossible, and Daniel Shechtman had to fight a fierce battle against established science. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 has fundamentally altered how chemists conceive of solid matter.

On the morning of 8 April 1982, an image counter to the laws of nature appeared in Daniel Shechtman’s electron microscope. In all solid matter, atoms were believed to be packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns that were repeated periodically over and over again. For scientists, this repetition was required in order to obtain a crystal.

Shechtman’s image, however, showed that the atoms in his crystal were packed in a pattern that could not be repeated. Such a pattern was considered just as impossible as creating a football using only six-cornered polygons, when a sphere needs both five- and six-cornered polygons. His discovery was extremely controversial. In the course of defending his findings, he was asked to leave his research group. However, his battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter. 

Aperiodic mosaics, such as those found in the medieval Islamic mosaics of the Alhambra Palace in Spain and the Darb-i Imam Shrine in Iran, have helped scientists understand what quasicrystals look like at the atomic level. In those mosaics, as in quasicrystals, the patterns are regular – they follow mathematical rules – but they never repeat themselves.

File:Quasicrystal1.jpg

Atomic model of an Ag-Al quasicrystal: Wikipedia

When scientists describe Shechtman’s quasicrystals, they use a concept that comes from mathematics and art: the golden ratio. This number had already caught the interest of mathematicians in Ancient Greece, as it often appeared in geometry. In quasicrystals, for instance, the ratio of various distances between atoms is related to the golden mean.

Following Shechtman’s discovery, scientists have produced other kinds of quasicrystals in the lab and discovered naturally occurring quasicrystals in mineral samples from a Russian river. A Swedish company has also found quasicrystals in a certain form of steel, where the crystals reinforce the material like armor. Scientists are currently experimenting with using quasicrystals in different products such as frying pans and diesel engines.

Chemistry Nobel: 102 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry have been awarded since 1901. It was not awarded on eight occasions: in 1916, 1917, 1919, 1924, 1933, 1940, 1941 and 1942. Of 160 Laureates Frederick Sanger was awarded twice and there are 159 individuals (but including only 4 women) who have received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. All previous winners of the Chemistry Nobel are here. Chemistry was the most important science for Alfred Nobel’s own work. The development of his inventions as well as the industrial processes he employed were based upon chemical knowledge. Chemistry was the second prize area that Nobel mentioned in his will.

In 1901 the very first Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Jacobus H. van ‘t Hoff for his work on rates of reaction, chemical equilibrium, and osmotic pressure. In more recent years, the Chemistry Laureates have increased our understanding of chemical processes and their molecular basis, and have also contributed to many of the technological advancements we enjoy today.

The award of this year’s Chemistry Nobel has attracted many predictions at ChemBark, Thomsons Reuters, Curious Wavefunction and Interfacial Digressions among others but few (if any) predicted Schectman.

Dan Schectman 0n You-Tube

Physics Nobel goes to Perlmutter, Schmidt and Riess

October 4, 2011

Staffan Normark has just announced that the Physics Nobel has been awarded half to Prof. Saul Perlmutter and half to Prof. Brian P Schmidt and Prof. Adam G Riess for work on the universe and supernovae. They discovered separately that the expansion of the universe was accelerating and not slowing down.

http://www.nobelprize.org/

The Press release is here:

“Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice…” *
What will be the final destiny of the Universe? Probably it will end in ice, if we are to believe this year’s Nobel Laureates in Physics. They have studied several dozen exploding stars, called supernovae, and discovered that the Universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate. The discovery came as a complete surprise even to the Laureates themselves.

In 1998, cosmology was shaken at its foundations as two research teams presented their findings. Headed by Saul Perlmutter, one of the teams had set to work in 1988. Brian Schmidt headed another team, launched at the end of 1994, where Adam Riess was to play a crucial role. ….. All in all, the two research teams found over 50 distant supernovae whose light was weaker than expected – this was a sign that the expansion of the Universe was accelerating. The potential pitfalls had been numerous, and the scientists found reassurance in the fact that both groups had reached the same astonishing conclusion.

…. For almost a century, the Universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago. However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up the Universe will end in ice.

The acceleration is thought to be driven by dark energy, but what that dark energy is remains an enigma – perhaps the greatest in physics today. What is known is that dark energy constitutes about three quarters of the Universe. Therefore the findings of the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physics have helped to unveil a Universe that to a large extent is unknown to science. And everything is possible again.

None of the winners were among the Thomson Reuters predictions.

http://science.thomsonreuters.com/nobel/2011predictions/#physics

Storm in a Nobel tea-cup

October 4, 2011

Yesterday the party atmosphere for what was to be a week of celebrations at the Nobel Foundation was converted into a confused round of frantic phone calls and emergency meetings when it became known that the medicine prize winner Ralph Steinman had died last Friday. The media have been full of stories about the embarrassment this has caused and the chaos that ensued. Nevertheless the Foundation came to the decision  – fairly quickly and quite rightly in my opinion – that Steinman would retain the award.

But it does create a minor quandary for the Nobel Awards Committee. In future they will have to check that their award winners are alive at the time of making their decisions, but they will still have to maintain secrecy about the identity of the winners. Indirect checking through 3rd parties could probably lead to some identity leaks.

But I think this is a storm in a Nobel tea-cup. The solution is fairly simple as probability comes to their aid. Such occurrences as Ralph Steinman’s death some hours before the decision was finally taken are likely to be extremely rare. And they handled the unprecedented situation swiftly and quite well.  Moreover the Nobel Foundation could quite easily and simply clarify their award rules to be “that individuals known to have died before the decision shall not be considered”. The critical time is, I think, when the decision is made and not the time of the award announcement.

The Physics prize will be announced today.

In the Press:

Svenska Dagbladet – Reactions after Nobel prize blunder

Telegraph – Nobel jury left red faced by death of laureate

Herald Sun – Nobel jury caught off guard by death of laureate

Breaking! Nobel laureate Steinman died last Friday — and posthumous awards are not allowed.

October 3, 2011

UPDATE 2! Steinman will keep his award. 

 The Nobel foundation said in a statement:

The decision to award the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to the late Ralph Steinman shall remain unchanged, in keeping with the earlier announcement from the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.

As announced earlier, Ralph Steinman – one of this year’s three Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine – died on September 30. This information reached the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet via the president of Rockefeller University, where Steinman worked, at 14.30 CET on October 3, 2011. Earlier the same day, at 11.30 CET, the Nobel Assembly had announced the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine without knowing of Ralph Steinman’s death. 

The events that have occurred are unique and, to the best of our knowledge, are unprecedented in the history of the Nobel Prize. In light of this, the Board of the Nobel Foundation has held a meeting this afternoon. According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, work produced by a person since deceased shall not be given an award. However, the statutes specify that if a person has been awarded a prize and has died before receiving it, the prize may be presented.

An interpretation of the purpose of this rule leads to the conclusion that Ralph Steinman shall be awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The purpose of the above-mentioned rule is to make it clear that the Nobel Prize shall not deliberately be awarded posthumously. However, the decision to award the Nobel Prize to Ralph Steinman was made in good faith, based on the assumption that the Nobel Laureate was alive. This was true – though not at the time of the decision – only a day or so previously. The Nobel Foundation thus believes that what has occurred is more reminiscent of the example in the statutes concerning a person who has been named as a Nobel Laureate and has died before the actual Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.

The decision made by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet thus remains unchanged.

UPDATE!

Press release: It is with deep sadness and regret that the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has learned that Professor Ralph Steinman, one of this year´s three Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, passed away on September 30. This message was conveyed by The President of The Rockefeller University, where Professor Steinman worked, at 2.30 pm (CET), Monday October 3, 2011, after the decision and announcement about this year´s Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine. Our thoughts are with Ralph Steinman´s family and colleagues.

The Nobel Assembly, consisting of 50 professors at Karolinska Institutet, awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Its Nobel Committee evaluates the nominations. Since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded to scientists who have made the most important discoveries for the benefit of mankind.

BBC reports: In 1931, Erik Axel Karlfeldt was posthumously awarded the Nobel prize for literature, but the rules were changed in 1974. The Nobel Foundation states: “Work produced by a person since deceased shall not be considered for an award. If, however, a prizewinner dies before he has received the prize, then the prize may be presented.” This happened in 1996 when William Vickrey died between the announcement and the prize ceremony.

The issue is being discussed at the moment and a decision should be made by Tuesday.

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This morning Ralph M. Steinman was one of 3 scientists awarded the Nobel prize for medicine ”for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity“.

Swedish Radio has just announced that Prof. Steinman apparently passed away last Friday and the Nobel Awards committee was not aware of this when they announced the awards today. He died of cancer which he had been suffering from for the last 4 years. He passed away without knowing he had been awarded the prize.

The Nobel rules do not allow for posthumous awards and there is now some confusion as to whether Steinman will be a Nobel laureate or not.

Ralph M. Steinman was born in 1943 in Montreal, Canada, where he studied biology and chemistry at McGill University. After studying medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, USA, he received his MD in 1968. He has been affiliated with Rockefeller University in New York since 1970, has been professor of immunology at this institution since 1988, and is also director of its Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases.

Portrait of Professor Ralph M. Steinman

Professor Ralph M. Steinman 1943 - 2011

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded – half to Beutler and Hoffman and half to Steinman

October 3, 2011

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded today and the 3 winners are in the field of immunology.

The prize was divided, one half jointly to Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann “for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity” and the other half to Ralph M. Steinman “for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity“.

The Thomson Reuter predictions – this time – missed the mark.

Official press release here. 

Summary

This year’s Nobel Laureates have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation.

Scientists have long been searching for the gatekeepers of the immune response by which man and other animals defend themselves against attack by bacteria and other microorganisms. Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann discovered receptor proteins that can recognize such microorganisms and activate innate immunity, the first step in the body’s immune response. Ralph Steinman discovered the dendritic cells of the immune system and their unique capacity to activate and regulate adaptive immunity, the later stage of the immune response during which microorganisms are cleared from the body.

The discoveries of the three Nobel Laureates have revealed how the innate and adaptive phases of the immune response are activated and thereby provided novel insights into disease mechanisms. Their work has opened up new avenues for the development of prevention and therapy against infections, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.

Now fluorographene from Graphene Nobel winners

November 9, 2010

A new paper by the Graphene Nobel winners in the Journal Small:

Fluorographene: A Two-Dimensional Counterpart of Teflon, by Rahul R. Nair, Wencai Ren, Rashid Jalil, Ibtsam Riaz, Vasyl G. Kravets, Liam Britnell, Peter Blake, Fredrik Schedin, Alexander S. Mayorov, Shengjun Yuan, Mikhail I. Katsnelson, Hui-Ming Cheng, Wlodek Strupinski, Lyubov G. Bulusheva, Alexander V. Okotrub, Irina V. Grigorieva, Alexander N. Grigorenko, Kostya S. Novoselov, Andre K. Geim. Article first published online: 4 NOV 2010, DOI: 10.1002/smll.201001555

Abstract

A stoichiometric derivative of graphene with a fluorine atom attached to each carbon is reported. Raman, optical, structural, micromechanical, and transport studies show that the material is qualitatively different from the known graphene-based nonstoichiometric derivatives. Fluorographene is a high-quality insulator (resistivity >1012Ω) with an optical gap of 3 eV. It inherits the mechanical strength of graphene, exhibiting a Young’s modulus of 100 N m−1 and sustaining strains of 15%. Fluorographene is inert and stable up to 400 °C even in air, similar to Teflon.

Graphane crystal. This novel two-dimensional material is obtained from graphene (a monolayer of carbon atoms) by attaching hydrogen atoms (red) to each carbon atoms (blue) in the crystal. (Credit: Mesoscopic Physics Group, Prof. Geim - University of Manchester)

Science Daily. University of Manchester scientists have created a new material which could replace or compete with Teflon in thousands of everyday applications. Professor Andre Geim, who along with his colleague Professor Kostya Novoselov won the 2010 Nobel Prize for graphene — the world’s thinnest material, has now modified it to make fluorographene — a one-molecule-thick material chemically similar to Teflon.

Fluorographene is fully-fluorinated graphene and is basically a two-dimensional version of Teflon, showing similar properties including chemical inertness and thermal stability. Teflon is a fully-fluorinated chain of carbon atoms. These long molecules bound together make the polymer material that is used in a variety of applications including non-sticky cooking pans. The Manchester team managed to attach fluorine to each carbon atom of graphene. To get fluorographene, the Manchester researchers first obtained graphene as individual crystals and then fluorinated it by using atomic fluorine. To demonstrate that it is possible to obtain fluorographene in industrial quantities, the researchers also fluorinated graphene powder and obtained fluorographene paper.

Fluorographene turned out to be a high-quality insulator which does not react with other chemicals and can sustain high temperatures even in air.

Industrial scale production of fluorographene is not seen as a problem as it would involve following the same steps as mass production of graphene. The Manchester researchers believe that the next important step is to make proof-of-concept devices and demonstrate various applications of fluorographene. Professor Geim added: “There is no point in using it just as a substitute for Teflon. The mix of the incredible properties of graphene and Teflon is so inviting that you do not need to stretch your imagination to think of applications for the two-dimensional Teflon. The challenge is to exploit this uniqueness.”

 


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