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Featured News Nobel Prize 2018 Announcements

  1. Sep 23, 2018 #1

    Orodruin

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    The Nobel Prize winners of 2018 will be announced during the first week of October, starting with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday October 1.

    As most of us are biased towards physics: The physics prize will be announced Tuesday October 2 @ 11.45 (Stockholm time - CEST) at the earliest.

    The other announcement times are available on the official Nobel Prize homepage. All announcements are typically broadcast live on https://www.nobelprize.org/

    Unlike last year, where the discovery of gravitational waves was the clear frontrunner (and also won the prize), there is no clear frontrunner for the physics prize. Anybody who dares to take a stab at speculating who will be the happy receiver of a phone call from the Royal Academy of Sciences on October 2? (Even if it is in the middle of the night if that person is based in America ...)

    Edit: So let me start the speculation a bit. I think it is way past time to award the prize to a woman again. There are many women who have made important discoveries and it is unreasonable to ignore those accomplishments. I have long considered Lene Hau to be a frontrunner and she seems to appear on many science writers' wish lists as well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2018 #2
    Why should the scientist's sex have any influence on the decision? I know that Nobel prizes are somewhat meaningless given the amount of important work that is done over a year in any given area, but that would only make them even more meaningless, and with political connotations on top.
     
  4. Sep 23, 2018 #3

    Orodruin

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    It shouldn't. Yet only two women have ever been awarded the physics prize despite there being a large number of women who have clearly made contributions that are Nobel Prize worthy. The last time was Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963, that is 55 years ago and 60 years after Marie Curie was awarded her prize. That's my point.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  5. Sep 23, 2018 #4
    Another question is how old will the winner(s).be, will there be any new blood (<60)?. The average age of winners has been increasing slowly over the last sixty or seventy years

    IMG00013.gif

    To continue from 2000 to 2017

    number___ age group
    1.......... < 40
    4.......... ≤ 40 < 50
    8 .......... ≤50 < 60
    12 ........ ≤60 < 70
    9 .......... ≤70 < 80
    10....... ≥80

    Only in 2001, 2010, 2011 where the recipients (8) totally less than 60. In 12 of those years the average age was 70 or greater.
     
  6. Sep 23, 2018 #5

    ZapperZ

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    Sorry, but this is a throw-away statement that itself is meaningless. Nobel prizes are anything but meaningless. Pick any discovery that has been awarded such prize, pick any laureate who has been awarded such prize and pick any institution representing those laureates, and ask them if it was "meaningless".

    Zz.
     
  7. Sep 23, 2018 #6

    Orodruin

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    Multimessenger discovery of a merging neutron star binary would be a candidate, but it is difficult to find at most three people to share it ... The author list includes 953 institutes ...
     
  8. Sep 23, 2018 #7

    berkeman

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    And the Nobel prizes are not awarded for the work done over the past year. Perhaps you should do a bit more reading about what goes into being chosen for a Nobel prize...
     
  9. Sep 23, 2018 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    Nils Gustaf Dalen, ""invention of automatic regulators for use in conjunction with gas accumulators for illuminating lighthouses and buoys".
     
  10. Sep 23, 2018 #9

    Ygggdrasil

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    Here are a few who I think are deserving of the prize (focusing mostly on areas relevant to the biomedical sciences, which is my area of expertise):

    Physiology and Medicine:
    Cancer immunotherapy. James Allison for his contributions to checkpoint inhibitor therapy; and Steven Rosenberg and Zelig Eshhar for their contributions to CAR-T therapy. Cancer immunotherapy is one of the hottest areas in biomedical research, and it was largely started by the work of these three scientits in the 80s and 90s. The discoveries they made have been translated to the clinic and have led to FDA-approved anti-cancer therapies. (Of course, this may be one reason why the Nobel committee might wait a few years on awarding the prize to these individuals, as they might not want to be seen as endorsing commercial products).

    Regulatory T-cells. Alexander Rudensky, Shimon Sakaguchi and Ethan Shevach for the discovery of regulatory T-cells. Along the same lines, these scientists discovered and characterized a new population of immune cells, regulatory T-cells (Treg), which act as a self-check to keep the immune system from destroying the body. The work is incredibly important for understanding the immune system, autoimmune diseases, and cancer immunotherapy.

    Histone modifications. C. David Allis and Michael Grunstein for their work on elucidating the roles of histone proteins and their chemical modifications in the regulation of gene expression. This topic is an incredibly important, fundamental mechanism of gene regulation that has not yet been recognized by the committee (and is closest to my area of research). However, there are many people who have contributed to this field, so narrowing it down to three or fewer individuals may be difficult. These two, however, were just awarded the Lasker prize, so maybe the consensus is trending to these two as the ones most deserving or recognition for their work in the field.

    Chemistry (again, mostly focusing on areas related to biology):
    CRISPR. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuel Charpentier for elucidating the mechanism of DNA recognition and cleavage by the CRISPR-Cas9 system. For these two the question is not if, but when. CRISPR gene editing is an incredibly useful tool in the biomedical sciences, and it will likely have huge implications for society as it enables scientists to very easily modify the genes of many species, including humans. Some may say the prize is too soon (the key papers came out in 2012 and 2013), but other slam dunk prizes have been awarded prizes on similar timescales (Yamanaka's work published in 2006 on induced pleuripotent stem cells led to him wining the prize in 2012). While the committee may have been hesitant to award credit while patent littigation was ongoing, there was a ruling on the patent dispute earlier this year, which may remove these concerns. Feng Zhang, who built off of Doudna and Charpentier's work to figure out how to use the CRISPR-Cas9 system for gene editing, could also be recognized.

    Optogenetics. Karl Deisseroth, Peter Hegemann and Gero Miesenbock for the development of optogenetics. Optogenetics sounds like something from science fiction: designing genetically-encoded devices that allow scientists to precisely control cells by shining light on them. These scientists, however, made that fiction a reality by developing light-gated ion channels that allowed them to control the firing of neurons just by shining light on the neurons. Interestingly, Feng Zhang (mentioned above for his work on CRISPR) was Karl Deisseroth's graduate student so there may be a race between the two to see who gets a Nobel first.
     
  11. Sep 23, 2018 #10

    Orodruin

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    Just out of curiosity as a layman in both chemistry and medicine: Is it 100% clear to you that the CRISPR prize should be in chemistry rather than physiology/medicine?
     
  12. Sep 23, 2018 #11
    Can you give specific examples of women who should have won, but didn't because of some gender based bias in the selection process? Should the Nobel prizes be 50/50 men and women, and if there aren't enough women should we just artificially lower the bar for women in order to boost their nobel prize count?
     
  13. Sep 23, 2018 #12

    Orodruin

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    Sorry, but this question shows profound ignorance of the history of the Nobel Prizes. There are many examples of women who arguably should have won a Nobel Prize, but did not. Of course, you can never prove that it was based on gender bias, but you asked for specific examples so let me just mention Lise Meitner who definitely should have shared the prize (in chemistry, but it might as well have been a physics prize) with Otto Hahn.

    No, it should not be 50/50, but women in physics today are at least as prominent as men based on how big of a portion of the community they represent. To not have awarded a single prize to a woman for over 50 years is ridiculous.
     
  14. Sep 23, 2018 #13

    Ygggdrasil

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    Doudna and Charpentier's work was primarily biochemical, and similar work in molecular biology and biochemistry has been awarded the chemistry prize rather than the physiology or medicine prize. For example, in the last 10 years, we've seen Chemistry Prizes for the discovery and development of green fluorescent protein (2008), studies of the structure and function of the ribosome (2009), studies of G-protein-coupled receptors (2012), and mechanistic studies of DNA repair (2015). Doudna did her postdoctoral work with Tom Cech, building off his work on catalytic RNAs, for which he won the 1989 Chemistry Prize. Doudna and Charpentier's work focused on figuring out how an important biological molecule works, and traditionally that sort of work has been awarded the Chemistry prize.

    On the medicine side, there have been awards for biochemical work (e.g. the 2009 prize to Blackburn, Greider and Szostak for their work on telomerase), but here, the work was very relevant to human biology and human disease. (Note: Szostak was Doudna's PhD advisor, though Doudna did not work on telomerase in Szostak's lab). Part of the CRISPR story that is interesting to people is its role as a bacterial antiviral defense mechanisms, which would not really fit into physiology and medicine. Furthermore, although there are ongoing clinical trials using CRISPR, no therapies based on CRISPR have led to any breakthroughs in the treatment of disease (of course, the same could be said for RNAi, the subject of the 2006 prize, given that the first FDA-approved therapy using RNAi was just approved this year).
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  15. Sep 23, 2018 #14

    ZapperZ

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    It is difficult to "prove" that these women were overlooked due to gender biased biases, because one needs clear proof of that. But in many of these cases, when we look at it now, they were head-scratchers on why they were overlooked while the colleagues that they were working with received the prize:

    1. Rosalind Franklin. She essentially did ALL of the x-ray diffraction work that established the helical structure of the DNA.

    2. Vera Rubin. Enough said.

    3. Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Even astronomers were criticizing the Nobel Committee for overlooking what was really HER discovery, and gave the prize to her supervisor instead.

    4. Chien-Shiung Wu. The "First Lady of Physics" managed to get her colleagues to win the Nobel Prize based on what she did.

    5. Mildred Dresselhaus. Considering all the accolades given to her while she was alive, I am still shock that she has not been awarded the prize. Many people attributed her to the concept of the possible existence of graphene well before it was discovered.

    etc...

    Zz.
     
  16. Sep 23, 2018 #15

    PAllen

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    Right, that’s an example of a low point in the Nobel committee where for partly political and religious reasons, as well as anti-theory bias, they did not want to award the prize to either Max Planck or Einstein (or earlier, Poincare), so they basically picked a place holder.
     
  17. Sep 23, 2018 #16

    PAllen

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    I’ll second Lene Hau. I’ve been waiting for recognition of her work for well over a decade.
     
  18. Sep 23, 2018 #17
    If there were researchers that also deserved to receive the prize and didn't (Einstein for his work on relativity comes to mind), it doesn't make sense to give any meaning to it. It's actually very anti-scientific to have a few people judging what has merit and what doesn't to receive their grand prize. It's good for hype, sure, but it doesn't have any meaning in Science.

     
  19. Sep 23, 2018 #18

    ZapperZ

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    But there is a difference between "science" and the "practice of science". The latter is still a human endeavor!

    Everything about the practice of science requires someone, some group, or some institution to decide. A group of human beings decided if someone should be hired for a tenure-track position. Another had to decide on whether funding to be given to some research proposal. Then some steering committee will determine if a particular area should be given top priority, etc... etc. Every step in this human endeavor requires some people to judge and decide on something!

    And you are directly and indirectly benefiting from these decisions, whether you realize it or not.

    Zz.
     
  20. Sep 23, 2018 #19

    atyy

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    If Doudna and Charpentier get the Nobel Prize, the third person should be Virginijus Šikšnys, whose group discovered it first.

    Does TALENS (an earlier technology than CRISPR) deserve a prize?
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  21. Sep 23, 2018 #20

    atyy

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    I think Franklin was technically not overlooked, as she had died. Would you include Lise Meitner among your etceteras?
     
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