By Rebekah Williams
Awards in physics, medicine, chemistry, literature, economics and peace handed out this past week
The tradition that began in 1901 in honor of inventor and pacifist Alfred Nobel continued this past week, as the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, Literature and Peace were awarded.
Each year, between 100 and 250 people are nominated for each prize, but a maximum of three people may receive each individual award.
As stipulated by Alfred Nobel, the prizes are awarded to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”
The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics has been jointly awarded to Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University and Francois Englert, of the Free University of Brussels for confirming the existence of the Higgs boson.
While the idea of the Higgs boson was first proposed in 1964, it was not confirmed until this year.
As stated by the Nobel committee, this finding “contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles.”
This year’s prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three American scientists, Randy Schekman of University of California, Berkley, James Rotham of Yale University and Thomas Südhof of Stanford University.
Schekman isolated three classes of genes involved in vesicle transport in yeast cells, while Rotham discovered the protein complexes in charge of vesicle transport.
Sudhof applied these mechanisms to neuronal signaling within the body.
These discoveries have uncovered the mechanisms behind conditions like neurological diseases, diabetes and immunological disorders, which are caused by problems in these cellular systems.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was also awarded to three individuals; Martin Karplus of Harvard University, and Michael Levitt and Arieh Washell of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
This award was given “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”
Their work combined classical, Newtonian physics with quantum physics. These new systems can be used to create new drugs.
In addition to these scientific discoveries, two other Prizes were awarded for Literature and Peace.
Alice Munro of Canada was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The award-giving Swedish Academy declared her the “master of contemporary short stories.”
Munro penned a series of stories about girls and women before and after the 1960s social revolution.
These stories include “The Moons of Jupiter,” “The Progress of Love,” and “Runaway.”
Meanwhile, the Nobel Prize in Economics went to Robert Shiller, Eugene Fama and Lars Peter Hansen, the last two of whom are professors at the University of Chicago.
The trio of economists was able to create a model that can predict market action and stock prices on a three- to five-year scale.
Finally, the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an intergovernmental organization located in the Netherlands, for declaring “the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law.”
Science has no doubt progressed in the past year in a multitude of fields.
It will be interesting to see where the 2013 Nobel Prize winners invest their winnings, since the monetary element of the prize is traditionally donated to a scientific investigation.