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Nobel Prize Winners, 2023
Last week, the Nobel Prize winners of 2023 were announced. Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has awarded individuals around the world for their outstanding achievements in the fields of peace, literature, chemistry, physics, and physiology or medicine. Peace Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian humanitarian activist won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all”. Mohammadi fought with the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement against Iran’s authoritarian regime, campaigning for women’s rights, abolition of the death penalty, and improvement of prison conditions. This movement has become the largest political demonstration against Iran’s theocratic regime since it came to power in 1979. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s suppression of ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ activists have been violent. This includes more than 500 demonstrators who have been killed, thousands injured, and 20 thousand arrested and held in regime custody. Mohammadi’s “brave struggle has come with tremendous personal costs”, said Berit Reiss-Andersen, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Andersen added that “altogether, the regime has arrested her 13 times, convicted her five times, and sentenced her to a total of 31 years in prison and 154 lashes”. Mohammadi remains in jail to date. Literature Jon Fosse, a Norwegian novelist, poet, and playwright won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday, “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable”. Fosse is one of the most widely performed playwrights in the world with 40 published plays. His novels are written mainly in the minority language, Nynorsk, which has been translated into around 50 languages. Fosse’s entire collection of work has entitled him a littérateur laureate. Upon his achievement, Fosse said “I hope they can find a kind of peace in, or from, my writing”, which spans the various themes of ageing, love, religion, and art. Along with the prestige and a huge boost in book sales, Fosse will receive 11 million Swedish krona, about $991,000. Chemistry Moungi G. Bawendi, Louis E. Brus, and Alexei I. Ekimov won the Nobel Chemistry Prize on Wednesday, “for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots”. In the early 1980s, Ekimov created size-dependent quantum effects in coloured glass. Brus followed by proving size-dependent quantum effects in particles floating freely in a fluid. Then in 1993, Bawendi revolutionised the chemical production of quantum dots meaning they can now be utilised in applications. The discovery and development of quantum dots are used by biochemists and doctors to map biological tissue, spread their light from televisions and LED lamps, and guide surgeons when removing tumour tissue. Quantum dots are the smallest components of nanotechnology, which may contribute enormously to the future of flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells, and encrypted quantum communication. Physics Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L’Huillier won the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday, “for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter”. They found a way to create short pulses of light that can be used to measure the rapid processes in which electrons move or change energy. This has allowed physicists to further explore electrons, atoms, and molecules. In 1987, L’Huillier discovered that many different overtones of light arose when she transmitted infrared laser light through a noble gas. In 2001, Agostini successfully investigated a series of consecutive light pulses, in which each pulse lasted just 250 attoseconds. In 2001, Krausz’s experiment made it possible to isolate a single light pulse that lasted 650 attoseconds. Agostini, Krausz, and L’Huillier’s discoveries mean attoseconds can be utilised in several applications including electronics, fabrics, and medical diagnostics. Physiology or Medicine Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman won the Nobel Physiology or Medicine Prize on Monday, “for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19”. Karikó and Weissman made ground-breaking discoveries that delivery of mRNA generated with base modifications both reduced inflammatory responses and increased protein production. This led to vital contributions in the development of vaccines as early as 2020 in the outbreak of COVID-19. Karikó and Weissman eliminated critical obstacles on the way to clinical applications of mRNA, paving the way for the future development of vaccines. Consequentially, mRNA technology may also be used to deliver therapeutic proteins and treat some cancer types. Economic Sciences Claudia Goldin won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences yesterday, “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes”. Goldin exposed the lack of progress in the underpayment and underrepresentation of women in the global labour market. By digging through 200 years of archived data, she found that despite increased employment of women as their role in society, the earnings gap between women and men hardly closed. Goldin also found that the earnings difference between men and women largely arises with the birth of the first child. Jakob Svensson, the chair of the Committee for the Prize in Economic Sciences commented: “Understanding women’s role in the labour is important for society. Thanks to Claudia Goldin’s groundbreaking research we now know much more about the underlying factors and which barriers may need to be addressed in the future”. Alfred Nobel The Sveriges Riksbank Prize prize was added in memory of the multitalented, Alfred Nobel. Nobel was an inventor, poet, entrepreneur, scientist, businessman and littérateur. Nobel established the prizes in his 1895 will, leaving 31 million SEK (about 265 million dollars today) to fund the prizes. He left much of his wealth to ensure recognition of outstanding achievements for efforts in peace, literature, chemistry, physics, and physiology or medicine. To “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”. Edited by: Anwen Venn
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