The centenary Nobel prizes were awarded to researchers who have made seminal discoveries
sweden's Karolinska Institute is a place which becomes the centre of attraction for everyone during this time of the year. Its where the Nobel prize winners' list is released from. What made Nobel prizes special this year was that they marked the centenary of the prestigious awards. Surprisingly, the headlines screaming 'war in Afghanistan' did not obliterate the euphoria generated by the prizes.
This year's award for medicine was bestowed upon three biologists who revealed the mysteries of a process central to the growth, development and maintenance of all living organisms: cell division. Leland Hartwell of Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute and Paul M Nurse and R Timothy Hunt of London's Imperial Cancer Research Fund, were the three adjudged joint winners. They had worked independently for more than 30 years. Their work had thrown light upon the 'life-cycle' of a cell and the mechanisms that control the processes involved. Their path-breaking work has, over years, led to an entire new discipline in molecular biology, increasing the chance of finding cure for cancers, which spread by excessive or mutant cell division. Pharmaceutical companies worldwide now use their research as groundwork for developing new drugs to control cancer by interrupting cell division.
The research has far-reaching potential in computing, nanotechnology and precision instruments. The matter still lies in the realm of theoretics and laboratories for all practical purposes but scientists predict that it could eventually lead to devices that use streams of wave-like but slow-moving atoms to replace lasers in precision measuring devices ranging from clocks to gyroscopes. "To make matter behave in this controlled way has long been a challenge for researchers," the Royal Swedish Academy wrote in awarding the prize. "This year's Nobel Laureates have succeeded -- they have caused atoms to 'sing in unison'."
These three economists, separately revealed the consequences of what happens when one party in a transaction knows more than the other. Akerlof showed the unhappy consequences of skewed information in 1970: causing either a market to collapse or to be flooded with bad products, an effect called adverse selection. He illustrated this with reference to used-car sales. Here, because the seller knows more than the buyer, the market can become awash with bad vehicles, called 'lemons' in the us. The other economic lemons can be more invidious than shoddy cars, Akerlof pointed out. These effects could cause exploitative interest rates to prevail in local credit markets in developing countries, for example.
The other awards went to Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary general, for peace, and V S Naipul for literature.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.