The 2017 Nobel Prize Awards
Between 1901 and 2017, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 585 times to 923 people and organizations. With some receiving the Nobel Prize more than once, this makes a total of 892 individuals and 24 organizations. Below, you can view the full list of this year's Nobel Prizes and Nobel Laureates.
This October, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. With nuclear warfare as an ever-looming threat, particularly in current headlines, it was apt that this advocacy group dedicated to the eradication of nuclear arms be recognized for their contribution towards global peace. Their efforts included an unprecedented treaty to prohibit nuclear arms ownership. 53 member states of the United Nations have signed the treaty, indicating their support and intent to dispose of or never obtain nuclear arms. Guyana, the Vatican, and Thailand are the only three that have formally ratified the treaty thus far, but it is projected that many others will do the same in the coming months. The treaty terms will go into effect 90 days after 50 member states of the United Nations member states ratify it. While U.S. powers are in opposition of the treaty terms, many hope this peace offering will subdue rising tension and pave a path to a safer future without weapons of mass destruction. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was founded in 2007 in Australia.
This award 2017 was divided, one half awarded to Rainer Weiss, the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves". Gravitational waves, that Einstein predicted 100 years ago, were directly observed for the first time in 2015 at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facility. The detection of these waves crowns the experimental efforts of hundreds of scientists and engineers, culminating in a collaboration of 90 institutions over 5 continents, who directly or indirectly contributed to this breakthrough. The three Nobel Laureates this year represent, in the best way, the diverse competencies needed for LIGO's success. Reiner Weiss lead the foundation for the detector design, Kip Thorne made predictions of critical importance for the design, and Barry Barish is a scientific leader who scaled the project up which, eventually, led to successful detection. Without them, the discovery would not have happened and because of their efforts a new field is born; gravitational wave astronomy. This will teach us about the most violent processes in the universe and it will lead to new insights into the nature of exploring gravity.
Annually, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists who have made excellent contributions to the field of chemistry. This year’s prize was awarded to Jacques Dubochet from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, Joachim Frank from Columbia University in the U.S. and Richard Henderson from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK for their development of cryo-electron microscopy. This method of viewing specimen under a microscope now allows scientists to freeze their samples using cryogenic temperatures, consequently preserving them in their natural states without the need of contrast dye for viewing. This technique makes the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution possible. It is evident that this discovery will allow for further advancement in the areas of molecular biology and medicine.
Third, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall at the University of Maine, Michael Rosbash from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Brandeis University, and Michael W. Young at Rockefeller University for their discoveries of the molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm serves as a biological clock, controlling our sleep and wake cycles as well as the fluctuation of hormones like cortisol, which impacts metabolic function. These circadian biologists were able to pinpoint what was driving the cyclic patterns of our cells through study and experimentation on flies. Their findings shed greater light on the effect of daylight and nighttime on the body’s cell cycle and has significant implications for things like correcting circadian rhythm disorders due to blindness, or in populations in Nordic countries who experience medical complications due to insufficient sun exposure.
Established in 1968 by the Central Bank of Sweden and awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize was awarded this year to Richard H. Thaler for his contributions to behavioral economics and on understanding the psychology of economics and decision making. A pioneer in integrating psychology and economics, Richard Thaler has devised experimental tools to analyze human behavior and his research had created a new field. Through his experiments, Thaler analyzed three ways in which humans systematically deviate from the traditional economic models. He has studied the economic consequences of: bounded rationality, social preferences, and limited self-control. The first has to do with our rational decision-making and our lack of cognitive abilities even when making rational decisions. The second suggests that even though our decisions are often guided by self-interested, we still care about fairness and equity. And the third is that we suffer from a lack of self-control. Thaler, as the Royal Academy of Science puts it, has ‘humanized’ the field of economics.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the English writer Kazuo Ishiguro "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world," said Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. Kazuo Ishiguro has been a full-time author ever since his first book, A Pale View of Hills (1982). Both his first novel and the subsequent one, An Artist of the Floating World (1986) take place in Nagasaki a few years after the Second World War. The themes Ishiguro is most associated with are already present here: memory, time, and self-delusion. This is particularly notable in his most renowned novel, The Remains of the Day (1989). It was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989 and was turned into a film with Anthony Hopkins. Ishiguro’s writings are marked by a carefully restrained mode of expression, independent of whatever events are taking place. At the same time, his more recent fiction contains fantastic features. With the dystopian work Never Let Me Go (2005), Ishiguro introduced a cold undercurrent of science fiction into his work. In this novel, as in several others, we also find musical influences. A striking example is the collection of short stories titled Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009), where music plays a pivotal role in depicting the characters’ relationships. In his latest novel, The Buried Giant (2015), an elderly couple go on a road trip through an archaic English landscape, hoping to reunite with their adult son, whom they have not seen for years. This novel explores, movingly, how memory relates to oblivion, history to the present, and fantasy to reality.