From October 3 to 10, the Nobel Foundation announced the 2022 Nobel Prize winners. As laid out in the will of Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prize categories since its start in 1901 are physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) added the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Economic Sciences.
Alain Aspect, John Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for their groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states. Entangled quantum states are where two particles behave like a single unit even when they are separated.
The existing law states that if there are hidden variables in a mathematical problem, the correlation between the results of a large number of measurements will never exceed a certain value. However, quantum mechanics predicts that a certain type of experiment will violate this law, resulting in a stronger correlation than would otherwise be possible.
In their individual research teams, Aspect, Clauser, and Zeilinger detected problems with the existing beliefs of quantum mechanics and ran experiments to pave the way for new technology based on quantum information. For example, Anton Zeilinger’s research group demonstrated quantum teleportation, which makes it possible to move a quantum state from one particle to one at a distance.
As Anders Irbäck, the Chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, explained, “It has become increasingly clear that a new kind of quantum technology is emerging. We can see that the laureates’ work with entangled states is of great importance, even beyond the fundamental questions about the interpretation of quantum mechanics.”
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022 was awarded to Barry Sharpless, Morten Meldal, and Carolyn Bertozzi for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry. Sharpless coined the concept of click chemistry in 2000, and Meldal built upon it. Click chemistry is where molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently and unwanted by-products are avoided.
Bertozzi took click chemistry to a new level by developing click reactions that work inside living organisms, taking place without disrupting the normal chemistry of a cell. These reactions are now used to explore cells and track biological processes, improving the targeting of cancer pharmaceuticals.
According to Johan Åqvist, the Chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, “This year’s Prize in Chemistry deals with not overcomplicating matters, instead working with what is easy and simple. Functional molecules can be built even by taking a straightforward route.”
Physiology or Medicine
Svante Pääbo won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries concerning the genome of extinct hominins and human evolution. Through his research, Pääbo sequenced the genome of the Neanderthal and discovered a previously unknown hominin called a Denisova. He also found that the gene transfer had occurred from hominins to Homo sapiens after the migration out of Africa around 70,000 years ago.
These discoveries have revolutionized the understanding that Neanderthals and other extinct hominids made a significant contribution to the ancestry of modern human. Pääbo’s research has also established him as the father of paleogenomics.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2022 was awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux for her deeply personal books that re-examine her past. Ernaux’s books include “Cleaned Out,” an account of her working-class youth, and “The Years,” which weaves together events across 70 years of Ernaux’s life with French history.
The Nobel Prize in Literature is given for a writer’s entire body of work. Mats Malm, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy that decides the prize, praised Ernaux for the “…courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”
The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to one individual and two organizations: human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.
Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of Belarus’ democracy movement and has devoted his life to promoting democracy and human rights in his home country. The human rights organization Memorial was established in 1987 by human rights activists in the former Soviet Union who wanted to ensure that the victims of the communist regime’s oppression would never be forgotten. The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 to advance human rights and democracy in Ukraine.
As the Nobel Peace Prize website states, “They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses, and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.”
The 2022 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel went to Ben Bernanke, Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig. In the 1980s, the three of them laid foundational research as to why we have banks, how to make them less vulnerable in crises, and how bank collapses exacerbate financial crises.
In their economic theory, Diamond and Dybvig show how banks offer an optimal solution to the banking problem of savers wanting instant access to their money while homeowners wanting to know they will not be forced to repay their loans prematurely. The theory puts forth that banks should act as intermediaries between many savers, allowing depositors to access their money while also offering long-term loans to borrowers. Ben Bernake, on the other hand, analyzed the Great Depression and showed how the bank runs played a massive role in the crisis becoming so damaging and prolonged.
As Tore Ellingsen, Chair of the Committee for the Prize in Economic Sciences, stated, “The laureates’ insights have improved our ability to avoid both serious crises and expensive bailouts.”
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