Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nobel Prizes in the sciences

Near the end of Science awards from the ridiculous to the sublime, 2013 edition, I outsourced my speculation on the Nobel Awards to the L.A. Times.
Click on the link for the list of likely winners, which features three achievements worthy of recognition per category.  We'll find out starting today if any of the predictions were correct.
Discovery News and The Economist have the answers.

Nobel Prizes: Who Won & Who Got Snubbed

All of the 2013 Nobel prizes have been announced! This year's prizes went to people doing amazing work, but not everyone can be a winner. Trace looks at who won, who was snubbed, and which deserving scientists from the past never took home a medal.
Higgs’s bosuns
Awards for fundamental physics, how cells transport chemicals, and ways of modelling on a computer how those chemicals react once they have arrived
Oct 12th 2013
WILL he or won’t he? That was the question on the mind of anyone with a passing interest in the topic as representatives of Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science prepared to announce the winner of this year’s Nobel physics prize. Well, he did. Half a century after predicting the existence of the particle which bears his name Peter Higgs, of Edinburgh University, was awarded science’s highest accolade. Another, even bigger mystery was who would share the honour—and the cheque for SKr8m ($1.2m). In the event, after postponing the announcement twice (rare for the punctual Swedes) the prize-givers plumped for François Englert of the Free University of Brussels.
Less predictably, and less controversially, the prize for physiology or medicine went to James Rothman of Yale, Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Südhof of Stanford University, for their work on vesicles. These are small, bubble-like structures, surrounded by fatty membranes, which ship hormones, enzymes and various other molecules around a cell, and sometimes export them to the outside world.
Familiarity from school cannot, however, have been the explanation of a similar lack of questions after the announcement of the chemistry prize. This went to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, a trio who have collectively helped tame the daunting mathematical complexity involved in simulating chemical reactions.
The only one that Thompson Reuters called was Higgs, which was probably the easiest prediction.  From the L.A. Times:
One of the favorites in this category – and a likely emotional favorite for many people who have been following the search for the Higgs boson – is Peter Higgs, who is projected to be a co-winner with Francois Englert. The two men predicted the existence of the subatomic particle, which is thought to be associated with an energy field that imparts mass to particles. Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva have all but confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson.
The rest of the winners were not called this year, although the economics prize was awarded to someone who was forecast to win last year.  He deserves an entry of his own later.  In the meantime, follow over the jump for announcements from U.S. universities involved in the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Rutgers University: Rutgers Scientists Join Thousands Worldwide in Celebrating the 2013 Nobel Physics Prize
Prize honors two European physicists who proposed concepts verified by last year’s Higgs boson discovery
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
When the announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was made for theories that led to last year’s discovery of the Higgs boson, Rutgers assistant professor John Paul Chou was at the location where that discovery took place – the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland.

“There was lots of applause, lots of cheering,” he said, describing a CERN staff gathering he attended to view a live broadcast of the Nobel announcement from Sweden.

Receiving the prize were two physicists who in 1964 proposed fundamental concepts that were verified by the Higgs discovery at CERN nearly a half century later: Peter Higgs of Scotland and Francois Englert of Belgium.
University of Virginia: U.Va. Physicists Celebrate Their Role in Nobel-Winning Higgs Discovery
Fariss Samarrai
October 8, 2013
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics to theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert to recognize their work in developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass. University of Virginia scientists played a significant role in advancing the theory and in discovering the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field – the Higgs boson.

Brad Cox, a professor of physics in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences, served for three years on a sequence of eight analysis review committees, each comprising four physicists, that oversaw analysis of Higgs discovery data from the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. He also was part of a four-person analysis review team that oversaw the discovery analysis for 2½ years to the point where it could be determined that the evidence was strong enough that the Higgs particle had been confirmed. The discovery was announced at the Large Hadron Collider in July 2012 and further supported in December.

U.Va. scientists also were involved for years in the CMS – Compact Muon Solenoid – experiment, one of the two experiments that announced the discovery of the Higgs at the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, which was activated in November 2009 after nearly two decades of planning and construction. Cox and other members of the U.Va. High Energy Physics Group built components for the CMS experiment at the facility.

“We were at the center of the action,” Cox said.
New York University: NYU physicists, part of Higgs boson discovery, available for comment on 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics
October 8, 2013
New York University physicists who played a significant role in the discovery of the Higgs boson are available for comment on the winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, Peter Higgs and François Englert, who received the award in recognition of their work in developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass.

NYU and other U.S. scientists made notable contributions in advancing the theory and in discovering the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field, the Higgs boson.
NYU researchers formally joined the search in 2006, when they began collaborating on the A Toroidal LHC Apparatus, or ATLAS, one of the main detectors at the Large Hadron Collider, which was used to make the discovery of Higgs.
Wayne State University: Wayne State University part of scientific team celebrating Nobel Prize for Higgs Discovery
WSU researchers available for comment regarding Nobel Prize in physics
October 8, 2013
DETROIT — The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today announced the Nobel Prize in physics to theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert to recognize their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field,  which gives elementary particles mass.

Scientists estimate that visible matter makes up no more than 4 percent of the total mass of the universe, and the long-sought Higgs boson particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96 percent that remains obscured. A team of Wayne State University researchers led by Paul Karchin, Ph.D., and Robert Harr, Ph.D., professors of physics, are members of the CMS experiment, and played a significant role in the experimental aspects of the discovery. Alexey Petrov, Ph.D., professor of physics, and Gil Paz, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, are particle theorists who studied theoretical aspects related to properties of standard and non-standard Higgs bosons.
These were just the announcements from the campuses on the campaign trail that I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 Nobel Prizes).  I'm sure that there were dozens more.  It goes to show how large an international effort the search for the Higgs Boson was.  May that kind of "big science" not die out any time soon.

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