Nobel Prize, 2016

Japan’s Yoshinori Ohsumi wins 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine

Yoshinori Ohsumi (71) of Japan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize for physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work on autophagy.

With this he becomes the 23rd Japanese national to win a Nobel prize and overall the sixth Japanese medicine Nobel laureate.

Mr. Ohsumi had received a PhD from the University of Tokyo in 1974. Currently, he is a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT).

What is Autophagy?
  • Autophagy is a process whereby cells “eat themselves”. It is a fundamental process in cell physiology dealing with how the body breaks down and recycles cellular components.
  • It is essential for the orderly recycling of damaged cell parts and its better understanding has major implications for health and disease, including cancer.
  • It was first observed by Belgian scientist Christian de Duve who had won Nobel Medicine Prize in 1974 for it.
  • Christian de Duve had coined the term “autophagy”, which comes from the Greek meaning self-eating.
Yoshinori Ohsumi’s Research in Autophagy
  • Ohsumi’s discoveries in Autophagy have led to a new paradigm in the understanding of how the cell recycles its content.
  • In his research, Mr. Ohsumi had used baker’s yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy.
  • He explained the mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in human cells.
  • Significance: Ohsumi’s research had located the genes that regulate this self-eating process and also related that errors in these genes can cause disease.
  • His findings have opened new path to understand importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as how body adapts to starvation or responds to infection.
  • It has helped to establish links to Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and other disorders that appear in the elderly.
About Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • The Nobel award for medicine is given to persons whose discoveries have significantly enhanced the understanding of life or the practice of medicine.
  • The winners are chosen by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute and are always announced before the Nobel Prize for other categories.
  • The prestigious award carries prize money of 8 million Swedish kroner or 1.1 million dollars.
  • It is one of five Nobel Prizes established by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite in 1895.

British trio David Thouless, F Duncan M Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz win 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics

British trio of physicists David Thouless, F Duncan M Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz have won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics. They will share the 8 million Swedish kronor prize.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has selected them for their individual researches on theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.

Key Facts
  • Their research work centres on Topology, a branch of mathematics involving step-wise changes like making a series of holes in an object.
  • For example when matter goes from solid to liquid to gas different phases are obvious, but materials can also undergo topological step changes which affect their electrical properties.
  • Such changes can be seen in a superconductor, which at low temperatures conducts electricity without resistance.
  • These trio physicists had worked in the field of condensed matter physics and have discovered totally unexpected behaviours of solid materials.
  • Based on their individual discoveries they came up with a mathematical framework in the field of topology to explain these weird properties.
  • The discoveries have paved the way for designing new materials with all sorts of novel properties that have significant potential revolutionize advances in electronics and future quantum computers.
About Awardees
  • David J Thouless: He is Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, US.
  • Duncan M. Haldane: He is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Princeton University, US.
  • J Michael Kosterlitz: He is the Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of Physics at Brown University, US.

Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L Feringa win 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Trio of Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L Feringa have won the prestigious 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has chosen them for this award for their individual efforts in developing molecular machines. These three laureates will share the 8 million Swedish kronor (around $933,000) prize equally.

What are molecular machines?
  • Molecular machines or nanomachines are the world’s smallest machines.
  • Their working is inspired by proteins that naturally act as biological machines within cells.
  • Molecular machines are discrete number of synthetic molecular components fused together. They produce quasi-mechanical movements in response to specific external stimuli such as light or temperature change.
  • Molecular machines can be put to work as tiny motors, pistons ratchets or wheels to produce mechanical motion and can move objects many time their size.
  • Future Potential Applications: Molecular machines can be developed to function as artificial muscles to power tiny robots or even prosthetic limbs in case of Bionics.
  • They may lead to developments like new sensors, materials and energy storage systems.
  • They can be used to deliver drugs within the human body directly to target a specific area of tissue to medicate or cancerous cells.
  • They can be used to design of a molecular computer which could be placed inside the body to detect disease even before any symptoms are exhibited.
Contributions of
  • Jean-Pierre Sauvage (France): He had taken first step towards a molecular machine in 1983, after he successfully linkied together two ring-shaped molecules to form a chain.
  • J Fraser Stoddart (Britain): In 1991, he threaded a molecular ring onto a thin molecular axle and successfully demonstrated that the ring was able to move along the axle.
  • Bernard L Feringa (Netherlands): He is the first person to develop a molecular motor. In 1999 successfully designed molecular rotor blade to spin continually in the same direction. He also had designed nanocar using molecular motors.

2016 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. He was selected for the prestigious award by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for his resolute efforts to bring the more than 50-year-long civil war of Colombia to an end.

He is second Colombian to win Nobel Prize after writer Gabriel Gracia Marquez who had won the literature Prize in 1982.

Santos is also second Latin American to receive Nobel Peace Prize after Guatemala’s Rigoberta Menchu had won it in 1992.

Peace Agreement

Manuel Santos had initiated the negotiations with the guerrilla (rebel) group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). These negotiations had culminated into a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas. However in October 2016, the peace deal was rejected by a narrow majority by the Colombians when it was put to referendum.

About Juan Manuel Santos
  • Born on 10 August 1951 in Bogota, capital city of Colombia.
  • He was elected Colombian President for first time in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014.
  • Earlier he had served as defence minister from 2006 until 2009
Background
  • The civil war in Colombia is one of the longest civil wars in modern times and the sole remaining armed conflict in the South America.
  • The five decade long civil war has cost the lives of at least 220 000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people.
  • It was started in the 1960s as a rural uprising for land rights by FARC as communist-inspired guerrilla movement.
  • The main aim of FARC was to reduce the gulf dividing rich and poor and land reform for equality in the Andean country.
  • The conflict has drawn in various leftist rebel groups, drug gangs and right-wing paramilitaries over the decades.
  • However in recent times, the FARC had shifted from their original ideology and were active in illegal drug trade, kidnapping and extortion activities.

Bob Dylan wins 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature

American singer-songwriter, artist and writer Bob Dylan (75) has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is the first American to win the prize since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.

The Swedish Academy has selected Dylan for this prestigious award for creating new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.

About Bob Dylan
  • Born as Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota.
  • His debut album was ‘Bob Dylan’ released in 1962. He had adopted the name Dylan after the poet Dylan Thomas.
  • He is one of the best-selling artists (musician) of all time and has sold more than 100 million records.
  • He has 58 singles, 37 studio albums, 11 live albums and 6 collaborations to his name.
  • Besides, his lyrics have incorporated various political, social, philosophical and literary influences.
  • His early songs such as The Times They Are a-Changin and Blowin’ in the Wind were the anthems for the American civil rights and anti-war movements.
  • He has published six books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries.
  • Awards and Honours: 11 Grammy Awards, Golden Globe Award and Academy Award (Oscar). The Pulitzer Prize jury had awarded him a special citation in 2008 for his profound impact on popular music and American culture.
About Nobel Prize in Literature
  • The Nobel Prize in Literature is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895. It is awarded since 1901.
  • It is awarded annually to an author from any country who has produced the most outstanding work in an ideal direction in the field of literature.
  • The award carries a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation, and a sum of money.
  • Recent winners of Nobel Prize for Literature: Svetiana Alexievich (2015), Patrick Modiano (2014), Alice Munro (Canada), Yo Yan (China).

Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmstrom win 2016 Nobel Prize in Economics

Two economists Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmstrom have won the 2016 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Both of them will share 8 million kronor, or about $930,000.

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has selected them for their contributions to contract theory which tells how contracts help people deal with conflicting interests.

Their individual theories on contract theory are valuable to the understanding of real-life contracts and institutions, as well as potential pitfalls in contract design. For example, contract theory can be used to analyze performance-based pay for CEOs or deductibles and co-pays for insurance.

Their work provided economists microecomic tools to understand interactions between entities, such as design of performance incentives in firms, corporate governance, privatisation, constitutional law and entrepreneur-investor relationships.

Oliver Hart: He was born in 1948 in London, UK. He holds Ph.D. from Princeton University, US. Presently, he is Andrew E. Furer Professor of Economics at Harvard University, US.

Bengt Holmström: He was born in 1949 in Helsinki, Finland. He holds Ph.D. from Stanford University, US. Presently he is Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics and Professor of Economics and Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US.

About Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

In 1968, Sweden’s central bank had added the economic sciences prize as a memorial to Nobel. Thus, economics award is not a Nobel Prize as the others prizes which were established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in 1895.

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