Nobels
October 14, 2019

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer won the Nobel Prize in economics "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Monday. The committee said the winners' research "involves dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable, questions — for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health."

Kremer and his colleagues used field experiments in the 1990s to test interventions on improving school results in Kenya, The Associated Press explains. Banerjee and Duflo, who are married and work at MIT, followed with similar research in other countries, often working with Harvard's Kremer. "Our approach is to unpack the problems one by one, and examine them as scientifically as possible," said Duflo, the second woman and the youngest person to win the prize. Harold Maass

October 11, 2019

The prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Friday. The Nobel committee applauded Ahmed's "efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation," as well as his "decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea."

Ahmed became prime minister in April of 2018, and in just a few months "oversaw the release of the country's political prisoners, condemning their torture and also freeing jailed journalists," Sky News reports. He's also facilitated talks with the country's political opponents and showed compassion toward exiles, inviting them back. Sky also reports that half of Ahmed's Cabinet is filled with women, a "progressive" move. But his most monumental accomplishment was to help secure a peace agreement with Eritrea, a country with which Ethiopia engaged in a border war from 1998 to 2000. A peace deal was signed last year.

"In Ethiopia, even if much work remains, Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future," the Nobel committee said. Jessica Hullinger

October 9, 2019

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday to John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino "for the development of lithium-ion batteries," collectively creating "a rechargeable world."

Whittingham, a Briton at SUNY Binghamton, got the ball rolling in the 1970s, during the oil crisis, developing the first functional lithium battery, though it was too explosive to be commercially viable. Goodenough, a German-born professor at the University of Texas at Austin, doubled the lithium battery's potential, and Yoshino replaced Goodenough's cobalt oxide cathode with petroleum coke, ridding the battery of pure lithium and creating the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in Japan in 1985.

"The result was a lightweight, hardwearing battery that could be charged hundreds of times before its performance deteriorated," the Swedish academy said. "Lithium-ion batteries are used globally to power the portable electronics that we use to communicate, work, study, listen to music and search for knowledge. Lithium-ion batteries have also enabled the development of long-range electric cars and the storage of energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power." Read more about their research at the Nobel Committee. Peter Weber

October 8, 2019

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday to James Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz for their "contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth's place in the cosmos."

Half the nearly $1 million prize was awarded to Peebles, a Canadian-born Princeton professor whose theoretical cosmological framework "is the foundation of our modern understanding of the universe’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day," the Swedish academy said. Mayor and Queloz, both Swiss, split the other half for their groundbreaking discovery of an exoplanet, or the first planet found outside our solar system. Since their 1995 discovery sparked "a revolution in astronomy, and over 4,000 exoplanets have since been found in the Milky Way," the academy said. You can read more about their work at the Nobel site. Peter Weber

October 7, 2019

Two Americans and one British scientist were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine on Monday for their work uncovering "how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability," the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute announced. "Animals need oxygen for the conversion of food into useful energy," but until William Kaelin Jr., Peter Ratcliffe, and Gregg Semenza "identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen," the institute explained, nobody knew how cells adapted.

The discoveries by the three laureates "have paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anemia, cancer, and many other diseases," the Karolinska Institute said. Kaelin, who works at Harvard, and Semenza, at Johns Hopkins, are American; Ratcliffe, who is British, works at the Francis Crick Institute. The three scientists will equally split the 9 million kronor ($918,000) cash prize. Peter Weber

October 8, 2018

American researchers William Nordhaus and Paul Romer have won the Nobel Prize for economics for their work examining the interplay of climate change and technological innovation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Monday.

Nordhaus, of Yale University, was the first economist to create a quantitative model that "describes the global interplay between the economy and the climate," showing that "the most efficient remedy for problems caused by greenhouse gases is a global scheme of universally imposed carbon taxes," the academy said. Romer, of New York University's Stern School of Business, helped provide the research that led to the endogenous growth theory, and has shed light on how economic forces steer companies' willingness to produce new ideas and innovations, CNBC reports. Harold Maass

October 5, 2018

On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict." In announcing the prize, the committee said they see some similarities between the #MeToo movement and this year's prize, but the use of sexual violence as an act of war is its own category. They said they have not yet been able to contact Mukwege or Murad to inform them that they are Nobel Peace laureates.

Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, "has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo," and he and his staff "have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults," the Nobel Committee said. "Mukwege has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticized the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war."

Murad, one of 3,000 Yazidi girls and women abducted by the Islamic State and used as sex slaves, is "the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims," the committee said. "The abuses were systematic and part of a military strategy. They served as a weapon in the fight against Yazidis and other religious minorities." Peter Weber

October 3, 2018

On Wednesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to two Americans and one British chemist for research that has "taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind." Half of the award and $1 million prize goes to Frances H. Arnold at the California Institute of Technology for conducting "the first directed evolution of enzymes," the academy said. George P. Smith at the University of Missouri in Columbia and Sir Gregory P. Winter at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge were jointly awarded the other half for using "phage display" to help produce new pharmaceuticals.

Arnold is just the fifth woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and her enzymes have been used to create "more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, and the production of renewable fuels for a greener transport sector," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. The first drug created with the evolved proteins ushered in by Smith and Winter, adalimumab, was approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases in 2002, and "since then, phage display has produced antibodies that can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases, and cure metastatic cancer." Peter Weber

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