Thursday, December 10, 2020

World Food Program wins Peace Prize and the winners for economics, science, and literature on Nobel Prize Day 2020

Happy Nobel Prize Day! Today, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death in 1896, is the day the Nobel Prizes for peace, economics, medicine, physics, chemistry, and literature are presented to their recipients. Normally, that ceremony would take place in Stockholm, Sweden, for all the prizes except the peace prize, which would happen in Oslo, Norway, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the presentation happened remotely.

I begin today's coverage of the prize winners with World Food Program Wins 2020 Nobel Peace Prize from Now This.

This year's Nobel Peace Prize went to the World Food Program, a UN org that combats hunger worldwide by helping feed nearly 100M people across 88 countries.
Bloomberg Quick Take had a worse video, but a better description that expanded on the reasons for the World Food Program earning the award.
The organization is being honored “for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said on Friday.

The need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation is “more conspicuous than ever,” the committee said. The World Food Program is the world’s biggest humanitarian group to specifically address hunger and to work toward food security, it said.

Last year, the World Food Programme helped close to 100 million people in 88 countries in the face of acute food insecurity and hunger. The WFP is also the main body through which the United Nations works toward eradicating hunger as one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The committee chose to highlight hunger in this year’s peace prize after a deterioration in circumstances over recent years. In 2019, 135 million people suffered from acute hunger, the highest number in many years, it said. Most of the increase was caused by war and armed conflict.
This isn't the first time someone trying to feed the world earned a Nobel Peace Prize. The other that I have mentioned on this blog is Norman Borlaug, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his contributions to the Green Revolution. I teach about both Borlaug and the Green Revolution in my classes. When I return to the classroom, I plan on adding the World Food Program to that lecture.

I'm continuing with the youngest award, "The Sveriges Riksbank [Swedish Royal Bank] Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel," instituted in 1969. Stanford economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson react to winning the Nobel Prize in economics tells their story.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited the pair for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats.
This video shows that auction theory isn't just an academic interest; it applies directly to government functions as exemplified by the auction of radio frequencies. The airwaves are public property, which is why the government regulates broadcasters through the Federal Communications Commission and auctions off radio frequencies. Auction theory is one way of insuring accountability and transparency in the process.

Follow over the jump for this year's science and literature prize winners.

I am giving pride of place among this year's science honorees to the winners of the Physics Prize. SciShow Space tells that story in How We Learned Black Holes Actually Exist | 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Did you know Einstein never thought we’d find actual black holes in space? It took decades of research to show black holes are physically possible, and some of the scientists behind that research were honored this year with the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Hosted by: Reid Reimers
While I usually mention the University of Michigan as one of my alma maters, I also went to UCLA, so I am giving my undergraduate alma mater an opportunity to brag about this prize in Andrea Ghez reacts to winning the Nobel prize in physics.

Andrea Ghez, UCLA’s Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics, received the Nobel Prize in physics on Oct. 6, 2020. She discusses her research on the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy and her reaction to winning the prestigious honor.
Dr. Ghez is the eighth Nobel Prize winner from UCLA. The third was Donald Cram, who co-wrote the textbook I used for organic chemistry.

Speaking of organic chemistry, Global News reported Creators of CRISPR genetic “scissors” win 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. One of the recipients, Jennifer Doudna, also teaches in the University of California system at the flagship campus in Berkeley. Along with the two recipients from Stanford, four of this year's Nobel Prize winners hail from the Golden State, six if one counts Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice, co-winners of the Medicine Prize, who worked or studied in California before moving on the institutions where they did their award-winning work. California, represent!

Two scientists, Emmanuelle Charpentier, who is French, and American Jennifer Doudna, won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for creating genetic "scissors" that can rewrite the code of life, contributing to new cancer therapies and holding out the prospect of curing hereditary diseases.

The two scientists will share the $1.1 million prize for developing the CRISPR/Cas9 tool to edit the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms.

Charpentier and Doudna have also become the sixth and seventh women to win a Nobel prize for chemistry, joining Marie Curie, who won in 1911, and more recently, Frances Arnold, in 2018.

Doudna is already employing CRISPR in the battle against the coronavirus as co-founder of biotech startup Mammoth, which has tied up with GlaxoSmithKline to develop a test to detect COVID-19 infections.
I'm glad to see a technique recognized by a Nobel Prize having an immediate impact on human health.

Speaking of human health, DW News (Deutsche Welle or German Broadcasting) reported on the next award and the last of the science prizes in Nobel Prize: Virologists' Hepatitis C research 'saved millions of lives'.

Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice will share the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their work in identifying the Hepatitis C virus. 70 million people worldwide have the virus, with 400,000 deaths each year, according to World Health Organization estimates. The disease is a major cause of liver inflammation and cancer.
In a year dominated by one virus, I'm not surprised work on another virus won this award.

For the final prize, I'm sharing Louise Gl├╝ck awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature from France 24 in English.

American poet Louise Gluck has won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy said they chose the poet for her "unmistakable...voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal." It comes as the historic literary body seeks to repair its reputation after several years of scandal.
I agree; work on coronavirus is likely to win Nobel Prizes, whether in Chemistry or Medicine, about a decade from now. May we all live long enough to see it.

I close with congratulations to all the winners! May your work improve the world for years to come at least as much as it has improved it already.

That's it for this holiday. Stay tuned for a post about another holiday that starts at sundown, Hanukkah.


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