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2016 Nobel Prize Winners for Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine or Physiology

2016 Nobel Prize Winners for Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine or Physiology

The Nobel Prize is widely considered one of the most prestigious honors that can be awarded in Medicine, Physiology, Chemistry, and Physics. Many times the prize is only awarded after many years of work. They are also only awarded if discovery or the breakthrough research is expected to make a lasting and significant effect on its field of study.

First off, the Laureate of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is Yoshinori Ohsumi. The prize was awarded for his discoveries of mechanisms in autophagy. Autophagy is a process that occurs in cells and is central for degrading and recycling cellular components. The word itself is Greek with auto meaning “self” and phagein, meaning "to eat," thus autophagy means “self-eating”. This idea came into existence after researchers in the 1960’s observed a cell with the ability to destroy itself in order to recycle components. Specifically, Yoshinori Ohsumi’s work provided a new understanding of autophagy and how exactly this process happens. Autophagy becomes important when looking into how this process breaks down though mutation. As it breaks down, it can lead to several conditions including cancer and neurological disease, and understanding autophagy could help us to better understand and treat these conditions.

Next, the Laureates for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry are Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa. Although working independently of each other, they received this award for their design and production of a molecular machine measuring 1-10 nanometers, advancing this technology further than ever before. The definition of a machine states that it must have two components; one, movable parts, and two, mechanisms to convert energy into motion in a predictable way. In order to accomplish the requirements, they set up molecular rings that can rotate around each other causing motion, not unlike a wheel. When assembled correctly the structure resemble a vehicle with four wheels and can move across surfaces. The rotation of the molecule is controlled with UV light; one flash will make the rotate 180˚. All three scientists contributed crucial aspects that would make this nanomachine possible. Most of the work for this prize was done in the 1980’s and 90’s, but as of 2014 the technology has advanced enough that they are capable of building nano-motors capable of 12 million rotations per second.

Finally, the Laureates for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics are David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz. The prize was given to them for the theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter. This topic itself is difficult to describe in a non-mathematical way; it describes a way to study odd phases of matter like superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic films. It could open the door for discoveries of new phases of matter. It could also help to explain how superconductivity works, and specifically why their properties disappear at higher temperatures. This could lead us to some interesting discoveries, which could be applied in the development of technology.

The Nobel Prize has been around for more than 100 years and has been recognizing the most significant discoveries in science. By doing this they highlight research that otherwise would have been unknown to the masses and bring it to the forefront of science media.

References:

"The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - Press Release". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 20 Oct 2016.

"The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 21 Oct 2016.

Novella, Steven. "Re: The Skeptics Guide." Audio blog comment. #588 - Oct 15 2016. The Skeptics Guide, 15 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.

"The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 21 Oct 2016.

"The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics - Press Release". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 21 Oct 2016.

"Scientific Background on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 MOLECULAR MACHINES Compiled by the Class for Chemistry of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences." Nobel Prize. THE ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, 5 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.

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