The top candidates for the Nobel battle

The award winners will be announced this week starting Monday when Karolinska Institutet reveals who will receive the award in medicine/physiology. Then the Academy of Sciences announces the winners in Physics (Tuesday) and Chemistry (Wednesday).

People often sigh a little when they hear about prices, which is a normal reaction since these are usually complex phenomena.

The highest sigh is usually reserved for a physics award, especially when it comes to particle physics and you have to master advanced mathematics to fully understand what the award winners have done. It becomes increasingly popular if the award goes to space research, as happened last year when the main topic was black holes.

hard physics

This year, however, it is doubtful whether there will be space again. There are many indications that it would have to do with quantum physics or quantum mechanics, the physics that describe extremely small systems, such as atomic nuclei and elementary particles – something that is difficult for most of us to understand. It doesn’t usually help to have someone stand in front of the podium and show with cinnamon buns or golf balls how it all works.

According to the analysis firm Clarivate, one of the most famous candidates is Russian-American physics professor Alexei Kitaev, who is generally described as one of the most prominent physicists of our time. Among other things, he developed error-resistant computers – but not ordinary computers but so-called quantum computers.

Another potential physics prize winner is Italian Giorgio Baresi, who made groundbreaking discoveries in so-called quantum chromodynamics – a system that describes how the smallest building blocks of matter, quarks, bind together into protons and neutrons, which in turn build atoms. nuclei

The third potential winner is Anglo-American Mark EJ Newman, known for his research on complex networks. His methods have been used in fields as diverse as biology, economics, politics, and sociology.

free strays

The lightest substance, for most people, is usually chemistry – at least outwardly – although even here it can sometimes be difficult to understand. Last year, the chemistry prize got a lot of attention when French Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer were rewarded for discovering the so-called Crispr/Cas9 genetic scissors, a molecular mechanism borrowed from certain bacteria and archaea that makes this possible. To make drastic changes in DNA.

It’s doubtful whether this year’s award could be high, but the nominee is Briton Barry Halliwell for his award-winning research on so-called free radicals – molecules that can attack the body’s cell walls – and their impact on our health.

American William L Jorgensen was also mentioned as a potential chemistry prize winner. He pioneered the so-called computational chemistry where computer simulations are used to solve chemical problems.

The third candidate is Katalin Kariko from Hungary. She is one of the researchers behind the mRNA technology used to produce some vaccines against covid-19.

mice and mice

Usually the most popular award is the one in medicine/physiology – because we are naturally very interested in how our bodies work, what diseases we can suffer from and how the latter can be treated. This does not mean that the topic is not complicated. The experts at the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet who name the winners often refer to the way our cells “talk” to other cells, a complex and sometimes difficult area to understand.

One of my favorites this year, according to Clarivate, is Frenchman Jean-Pierre Changux, who has achieved exceptional results with his research on neuronal receptors in the body, part of the molecular machinery that enables our cells to communicate with each other.

Carl M. Johnson, USA, and Wang Lee, South Korea, are also potential winners, in their case for the discovery of hantavirus, a dangerous group of viruses spread by small rodents and can cause fatal hemorrhagic fever. The infection is spread through the urine and feces of rodents. The virus family is found worldwide – in Sweden it causes swine fever – but the deadly variants are found mainly in East Asia and southwest North America.

Two other Medicine Prize nominees are Japan’s Toshio Hirano and Tadamitsu Kishimoto for discovering interleukin-6, a signaling molecule in our immune system that is important, among other things, to the development of severe COVID-19.

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