Nobels 2012, etc.

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Nobels 2012, etc.

Post by River »

It's that time of year...

Today they announced the Nobel Prize in Medicine. It is being awarded to John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for their work in developing pluripotent stem cells from adult cells. Gurdon did the initial pioneering experiments 50 years ago when he cloned a frog from one of its skin cells (I had no idea that even happened and that's one of the things I love about Nobel season). Yamanaka turned back the clock on adult mouse skin cells in 2006, converting them to an embryonic state. His paper has been cited 4000 times in six years. That's sort of like spending six years on the top of the NYT best-seller list or going sextuple platinum. The significance is two-fold. First, it shows that development is reversible. Second, it shows that we could potentially now make human stem cells without having to harvest them from embryos, thus dodging an ethical sticky wicket and a potential immunological issue (stem cells from your own body are less likely to be rejected) in our quest to regenerate damaged or diseased tissue
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Post by Lalaith »

That is exciting! (I must admit that I already thought this was known--that you can use adult stem cells instead of embryonic. I've been reading about how adult stem cells are the ones that are showing the most potential anyway. :scratch: )
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Post by River »

It feels like it's been known for ages because it got so much attention when it happened. Sort of like how it feels like smart phones have been around forever - when something gets super-hyper-exposed and actually lives up to the hype, it starts feeling normal really fast. Also, the major discoveries that really stand up tend to have this "oh, of course" feeling once the dust settles. They just work so well you can't imagine how anyone could have thought otherwise. Unless you were there to witness the before and after.

As for which flavor of stem cell is going to be more effective, embryonic vs. the reversed kind, I have no idea. The reversed kind is being worked on harder in the US and Europe because of the ethical issues our culture attaches to the embryonic stem cells (in Asia, where medical and scientific ethics are less colored by Abrahamic religious teachings, they're more inclined to use embryos and they've been making progress there as well) so that can bias the feeling you've got.
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Post by River »

And today the Physics Prize was announced! It is going to Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the US for their work in incredibly weird quantum physics stuff. Their work laid ground for quantum computing and Wineland managed to put an atom in two places at once and that's about all I understand.

Wineland, BTW, is a scientist at the NIST lab in Boulder and a lecturer in the CU Boulder Physics Department. I don't think I've met him, though maybe I passed him in the hall or something. This will be the sixth Nobel affiliated with CU (Tom Cech, Eric Cornell, Carl Wieman, John Hall, and some climate scientists affiliated with the IPCC being the other five) and the fourth with our local NIST lab (Cornell, Wiemann, and Hall are the other three) and I imagine things are going to get nutty for a little while. They're going to have to clear out space for another Nobel laureate shrine in the lobby of the physics building and amend the big sign in front of the physics building and hopefully some of this stuff will involve tasty free food because what's the point of having a laureate in the house if you can't have tasty free food?.

Also, I think it's now officially time to shut down the CU football team and funnel their money into the physics department. They win. The football team does not.

I love Haroche's quote, BTW, when the reporter asked him how he plans to celebrate: "I will have champagne, of course." Because what else are you going to do after an announcement like that?
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Post by yovargas »

...incredibly weird quantum physics...
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Post by Primula Baggins »

Wow, I just realized that now that it's the Pac-12 I have savage, bitter football rivalries with three longtime friends on this board, at Stanford, Berkeley, and now Colorado. It's lucky that none of us give a damn about football, or Armageddon would ensue.

Though if any of those three schools wanted to play "count the Nobels" with Oregon, I would have to mumble and escape.
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Post by River »

CU's second tier so I wouldn't want to play that game either. Really, if we didn't just happen to have our NIST connection we'd only have two.

****

Today, the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka of the U.S. for their discovery of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). These are a family of proteins that sit in the membranes of cells and detect things like antihistamines, epinephrine, opiates, cannabinoids, and all sorts of other things. Half the drugs we take target GPCRs. Lefkowitz is a HHMI investigator at Duke. He was the first to find one. Kobilka is at Stanford. He established just how widespread these things are. In fact, the proteins in our eyes that sense light are GPCRs.

Go biochemists! :D
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Post by Primula Baggins »

Biochemists rock.

And the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the entire EU. Congrats all! And I do mean all. They'll have trouble making enough copies for everyone's mantel.

Edited for typo. Was tempted to add a note about Mo Yan, but figured I wouldn't get away with it. :P
Last edited by Primula Baggins on Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I'm surprised that no one mentioned yesterday that the Literature prize went to the Chinese author Mo Yan.
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Post by River »

I wrote a post and either it got eaten or I got interrupted and never hit submit. :oops:

One of the articles I read about him said he writes in a way that allows him to be critical of Chinese society and still get past the censors. "Halucinatory realism" they call it. I hope that now that his cover is blown he'll still be allowed to get away with it...

And the EU has won the Peace Prize mainly for not blowing Europe and the rest of the world up for the past 60 years. This is probably some sort of all-time record for peace on that continent. Of course, there was the messiness in the Balkans but none of the parties involved were in the EU at the time. I find the timing a little amusing as it seems like every other month someone speculates that Greece is going to pull out of the Eurozone and everything is going to collapse in a heap of rubble. But, seriously, when you think about it, the EU has done remarkable things.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I find the peace prize puzzling.

As for the literature prize, it is one of the few times that the descriptions of the winners work has actually made me consider wanting to check it out.
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Post by Nin »

As someone who has studied history and then European studies, I find the prize a real inspiration. People have bceom so used to a peaceful Europe that they easily forget how much the European Union has changed - 60 years without a major war on this continent is unprecedent. A war between France and Germany has become unconceivable - for two nations who have hated and fought each other for centuries.

Yet, people forget in this moment of economic crisis. Nationalism rises again and the European Union is contested, its merits forgotten or diminuished. I think it was an excellent moment to remind people that crisis or not crisis, we have just been living the most peaceful and most wealthy 60 years which this continent has ever experienced. That there is a reason for it. The rise of nationalism is dangerous - I really dont understand it, the idea of something like national preference is so alien to me... - especially in a context like Europe with so many states in so little space.

I was surprised, very surprised. But as a European citizen, I feel inspired and honored (and this despite being Swiss, so not a member of the European Union - well, I am German too...). And I thought that the timing was good. Of course, other countries have more problems with wars being fought and human rights not being respected. But, any form of intervention in those countries, help or shelter for those who seek asylium can only be offered in Europe if the continent is doing well and is in peace with itself.
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Post by Lalaith »

Thanks for your perspective, Nin. :)

(I'm reading but have very little comment to add other than to say that I think it's all cool.)
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Post by Primula Baggins »

Thanks, Nin, for your perspective. It does help clarify.

The fact is, it has been 67 years since open war was being fought within the countries of the EU, and those wars brought in the whole world. If you added up the blood and treasure that has not been spent on the wars that the world has not had to fight compared to other similar spans of time, that amounts to a huge gift from the countries of the EU to the whole rest of humanity.

As a parent I resist the idea of rewarding someone for not being bad. But I think the exception in this case is justified.
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Post by Frelga »

It is perfectly good parenting to reward breaking bad habits. ;)
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Post by Primula Baggins »

When you put it that way, certainly. :D I was only thinking of certain tiny extortionists I have known or have seen work their wiles in restaurants and other places. With one or two exceptions, it can't really be compared to war.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
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Post by River »

And, finally, the last of the six...

Today, the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics (okay, technically, it's got a longer name than that) has been awarded to Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley of the US for their work in "the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design." Matchmaker matchmaker make me a match...
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

It's that time of year, again.

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/ ... press.html

And ...

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 was awarded jointly to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs "for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider"
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Post by River »

Thanks, Voronwë. I meant to do that yesterday but got massively distracted.

The physics prize surprised me. They usually let big discoveries sit for a while to make sure that they hold up. I was certain it would be at least five years before there was a Nobel for the Higgs.
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Post by elfshadow »

I was excited to learn about the Nobel for medicine! Vesicular transport is incredibly important in medicine and it is a common drug target. We had an entire lecture on vesicular transport mechanisms last year. Congratulations to the three of them, and to the newly-announced winners in physics!
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