Friday, December 10, 2021

Journalists, climate modelers, and others recognized for Nobel Prize Day 2021

Happy Nobel Prize Day! As I have the past three years, I begin by recognizing the recipients of the Peace Prize. Watch Why the Nobel Peace Prize was won by 2 journalists, and what that means for press freedom from PBS NewsHour.

The Nobel Committee often likes to make a statement when it awards the Nobel Peace Prize every year, and 2021 is no different. Two journalists, one from the Philippines, the other from Russia, were recipients — at a time when the free press is under global attack, and the truth is hard to find. Nick Schifrin reports.
The Peace Prize recipients generally piss people off and I'm O.K. with that as long they piss off the right people. I think this year's prize qualifies.

Moving on to the sciences, two researchers who work on climate change were among those honored today. Watch DW News report Climate modelers awarded with the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded jointly to Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi for "groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems."

The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three scientists whose cumulative work can be summed up in two words: Climate change. Half of the prize went to Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann "for the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming." And the other half went to Giorgio Parisi "for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales." The Nobel Committee got Parisi on the line from his home in Rome to Stockholm, and when asked whether he had a message for politicians meeting at the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference, he said simply: "We have to act now."
I tell my students that modeling was the original scientific method, at least for the oldest science, astronomy, but that it generally doesn't get the respect that controlled experiments do. Now I can tell them that modeling has earned two of its practitioners a Nobel Prize.

Follow over the jump for the rest of this year's Nobel Prize recipients.

Continuing with the environmental theme, Global News reported Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to 2 chemists for tools to build molecules for trying to make more environmentally friendly catalysts.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Wednesday that German Benjamin List and Scottish-born David MacMillan won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing new tools that can help make drugs less expensively and in a more environmentally-friendly way — by building molecules.

They were awarded the 10-million Swedish crown, or US$1.14 million, prize for their separate work on asymmetric organocatalysis, which the award-giving body said was a "new and ingenious tool for molecule building."

Catalysts are molecules that remain stable while enabling or speeding up chemical reactions performed in labs or large industrial reactors.
I appreciate the irony of a German news source reporting in English and an English-language news source reporting in German.

I'm continuing with Global News reporting Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to US scientists for work on touch and heat.

U.S. scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine on Monday for discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch, which the award-giving body said could pave the way for new painkillers.

The breakthrough discoveries, achieved independently of one another, had launched intense research activities that led to "a rapid increase in our understanding of how our nervous system senses heat, cold and mechanical stimuli," the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said.
Patapoutian is credited for finding the cellular mechanism and the underlying gene that translates a mechanical force on our skin into an electric nerve signal. Julius’ findings on the skin's sense of temperature were based on how certain cells react to capsaicin, the molecule that makes chilli peppers spicy by simulating a false sensation of heat.
My wife and I have both taught about perception of touch, temperature, and pain, and I will teach about them next semester. I'm looking forward to mentioning that research into it has won a Nobel Prize.

Staying with Global News, I'm sharing Canadian among winners of Nobel Prize in economics.

Canadian-born David Card, American Joshua Angrist and Dutch-American Guido Imbens were the three economists who won the Nobel Prize in economics on Monday.

They won for pioneering "natural experiments" to show the real-world economic impacts in areas from minimum wage increases in the U.S. fast-food sector to migration from Castro-era Cuba.
In the same lecture where I describe modeling, I also discuss natural experiments as a scientific method and make the point that I work in fields that use natural experiments, which I also call the comparative method. I can now say that its practitioners have won Nobel Prizes as well.

I close with BBC News reporting Nobel Literature Prize 2021: Abdulrazak Gurnah named winner.

The winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature says he thought the phone call telling him he'd won was a cold caller.

Luckily, Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah was persuaded not to hang up.

The Swedish Academy praised Gurnah for his "uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism".
Congratulations to all the winners!

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