By Nischal Shrestha
Nobel Prize is undoubtedly the most prestigious award in the world. The award named after inventor Alfred Nobel was started in the year 1901. Like in previous years, this year too, Nobel Prize was awarded to the greatest achievements benefitting the humankind. In the month of October, the recipients of the Nobel Prize in six disciplines were announced. The winner receives a medal, diploma and about one million US dollars (approx. 10 crores Nepalese Rupees).
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 is given to Jacques Dubochet (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Joachim Frank (Columbia University, New York) and Richard Henderson (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, U.K.) for discovering better ways to see the molecules at the atomic level.
The Nobel Committee awarded the prize to trio, “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”. The discovery will help to visualize the cells more clearly. Scientists used cryo-electron imaging to determine the shape of the Zika virus. Zika virus is assumed to cause large number of birth defects and through the determination of its shape, research for the treatment will be lot more easier. It is believed that this discovery will revolutionize chemistry and take it to another level.
Regarding the inability of winning Nobel Prize by Nepal, Prof. Rameshwar Adhikari, executive director of Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST), Tribhuvan University said, “Till date we did not win Nobel Prize because we did not identify precisely our potential and did not seriously put efforts on discoveries on that ground. Our efforts are too insufficient and superficial – on part of persons, institutions as well as the government.” He further went on to say, “Scientists, institutions and government should put serious efforts on new discoveries and innovations based on our inherent potentials so that we will be one day able to win Nobel Prize. ‘Nobel Prize for Nepal’ should be our national agenda towards National Pride.”
This year, the discovery of Gravitational Waves was given the Nobel Prize in Physics. The prize will be shared by Rainer Weiss (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish (California Institute of Technology) for “decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.”
Gravitational Waves detection announcement was done a year earlier in 2016. It is widely expected in the scientific fraternity that this discovery will play fundamental role to know more about the universe. Gravitational waves are the ripples in the space-time created due to the merging of large bodies like black holes in space. Scientists do not know about the early universe, what happened during the big bang.
Artwork of Two coalescing black holes spinning in a non aligned fashion. Image: bbc.com
The discovery will shed light on this mystery in the days to come. Weiss and Thorne are pioneers of the LIGO project, while Barish took the lead in completing it. On Sept. 14, 2015, Gravitational Waves from the black hole collision 1.3 billion years ago were detected by twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in Louisiana and Washington state, USA. Weiss and Thorne are pioneers of the LIGO project, while for completion, Barish took the lead.
In the context of Nobel Prize, Prof. Balasubramanian Ananthanarayan of Indian Institute of Science (IISc), one of the top research universities of the world said, “Nobel prize is not the only way of evaluating scientific contribution. It is awarded for specific landmark contribution. Also West is centuries ahead and invests enormous amount of money. Thus the odds are stacked against developing countries. South Asian people working in the West do win. That actually proves my point. It is also important to think beyond Nobel prize.”
2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given to Jeffrey C. Hall (University of Maine), Michael Rosbash (Brandeis University), and Michael W. Young (Rockefeller University) for the discovery of biological clocks. Biological clocks anticipate various activities throughout the day like waking up, sleeping, eating etc. by regulating things like hormone levels, temperature and other things. They were acknowledged for their discovery of the 24hour body clock which is a microscopic biological machinery controlling the circadian rhythm.
They were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings,” the Nobel Prize Committee press release reads. “Their discoveries explain how plants, animals, and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions.”
Dr. Young was stunned by the announcement. He explained about the moment he heard about the announcement, “I really had some trouble getting my shoes on that morning,” he said. “I’d go and pick up my shoes and then I’d realize I need socks, and then I’d realize I need to put my pants on first.”
Adding his views on Nobel Prize and Nepal, Prof. Adhikari further said, “This is the age of knowledge – economy and prosperity depend on knowledge today. We should put all our efforts to make our country a land of innovations and new discoveries, of course, on the basis of our potentials and resources. We have brilliant young scientists whom we should strive to promote and encourage to make Nepal their ‘Centre of Living’. They will bag Nobel Prize for Nepal. This will mean us a lot – our country will be identified as a land of discoveries and innovations besides being a country of diversities, natural beauty, and with enthusiastic, optimistic, cheerful as well as hardworking folks.”
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Richard H. Thaler “for his contributions to behavioural economics”. The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 was awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world. The Nobel Peace Prize 2017 was awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treatybased prohibition of such weapons”.
Source: nobelprize.org, nytimes.com, theguardian. com