PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE
Oct 03: Japan’s Yoshinori Ohsumi won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work on autophagy.
What is autophagy?
Autophagy is a fundamental process in cell physiology dealing with how the body breaks down and recycles cellular components. It is a process whereby cells “eat themselves”.
Autophagy can rapidly provide fuel for energy and building blocks for renewal of cellular components, and is, therefore, essential for the cellular response to starvation and other types of stress. After infection, autophagy can eliminate invading intracellular bacteria and viruses. It also contributes to embryo development and cell differentiation. Cells also use autophagy to eliminate damaged proteins and organelles, a quality control mechanism that is critical for counteracting the negative consequences of aging.
The concept emerged during the 1960s, when researchers observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes for degradation.
Oct 04: The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three British scientists, David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz for “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”.
Half the prize went to David J. Thouless while other two geniuses sharing the other half.
What is Topology?
Topology is a branch of mathematics that investigates physical properties of matter and space that remain unchanged under deforming forces, including stretching. It holds exceptional promise for quantum computing and tiny quantum devices as topological states can transport energy and information without overheating, unlike traditional quantum mechanics. Topology describes properties that only change step-wise. It explains how a material’s shape can be completely deformed into new one without losing its core properties.
Oct 05: Jean-Pierre Sauvage (France), J. Fraser Stoddart (Britain) and Bernard Feringa (The Netherlands) won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for “their individual efforts in developing molecular machines.”
What are molecular machines?
Molecular machines or nanomachines are the world’s smallest machines. Their working is inspired by proteins that naturally act as biological machines within cells. Molecular machines are discrete number of synthetic molecular components fused together. They produce quasi-mechanical movements in response to specific external stimuli such as light or temperature change.
Future Potential Applications
Molecular machines can be developed to function as artificial muscles to power tiny robots or even prosthetic limbs in case of Bionics. They may lead to developments like new sensors, materials and energy storage systems. They can be used to deliver drugs within the human body directly to target a specific area of tissue to medicate cancerous cells. They can be used to design of a molecular computer which could be placed inside the body to detect disease even before any symptoms are exhibited.
Oct 13: The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 went to Bob Dylan, a renowned American songwriter, singer, artist, and writer for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
The Nobel Prize makes Dylan the first American to win the prize since 1993, when novelist Toni Morrison was honoured by the Nobel academy. He also became the first true musician to win the literature prize.
The Nobel Peace Prize 2016 was awarded to Juan Manuel Santos for “his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end.”
Santos is known for his efforts to end a half-century conflict in Colombia. In September, he signed a peace deal with Rodrigo Londono, the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Though the referendum was defeated, the Norwegian Nobel Committee stressed that this does not necessarily mean the efforts to reach a peace deal are over. By awarding this year’s Peace Prize to Mr Santos, the Committee wishes to encourage all those who are striving to achieve peace, reconciliation and justice in Colombia.
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2016 was awarded jointly to Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström “for their contributions to contract theory”.
Their analysis of optimal contractual arrangements lays an intellectual foundation for designing policies and institutions in many areas, from bankruptcy legislation to political constitutions. This means their work is taught in economics, law and politics classes.
Contract theory is the study of the way individuals and businesses construct and develop legal agreements. It analyzes how different parties make decisions to create a contract with particular terms when uncertain conditions happen. It also covers how individuals and businesses make contracts with asymmetric information. The theory draws upon principles of financial and economic behaviour as different parties have different incentives to perform or not perform particular actions.