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2020 Nobel Prize Winners

October 23, 2020
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Nobel Prize In Chemistry
Scissors are incredibly useful—they can transform something as simple as a rectangular piece of paper into a masterpiece. So imagine what genetic scissors can do to alter DNA in animals, plants, and other microorganisms! In 2012, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. These scissors have allowed scientists to make precise cuts in DNA that help to manipulate how genetic code can be rewritten. What does this mean? When you can rewrite DNA, you can do things like develop new crops that resist mold or thrive in drought conditions. Scientists are also using these scissors to try and cure diseases. This is the first time that two women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the same year.

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Nobel Peace Prize
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was given to the World Food Programme (WFP), an organization that fights to eliminate hunger around the world. Surprised that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to an organization instead of a person? Well, you shouldn’t be, because this prestigious prize has been awarded to organizations twenty-eight times since it was founded in 1901. In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was awarded the prize twice, and the International Committee of the Red Cross was awarded the prize three times.

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Nobel Prize In Economic Sciences
How does an auction work? There’s an item up for bid and those who want this item—let’s say it’s a painting—will bid on it until they can no longer afford to go any higher, don’t think it’s worth more than a specific amount, or until they win. The person who offers the highest bid wins the item. It’s a fairly straightforward concept and one that drives up the price of the item being auctioned off because there’s both scarcity (there’s only this item being auctioned off) and there’s demand (lots of people want it). But what if the item being auctioned off isn’t tangible and its value isn’t known beforehand? Can this item still be auctioned off and produce the same results? Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson, the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, studied auctions and theorized that auctions can work for even nontraditional items, such as radio frequencies, all while producing the same results. Milgrom and Wilson later took their findings and created new auction formats that have been used around the world to sell goods and services that have been traditionally difficult to auction off.

Nobel Prize In Literature
American poet Louise Glück is no stranger to prestigious awards. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, was named the United States’ poet laureate in 2003, and was awarded the 2015 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama. But when she was told that she won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, she was shocked because she felt that many American poets and writers have been overlooked in the past. So why did the Nobel Prize committee choose her to receive the award? According to the committee, Glück was awarded the prize “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” Only eleven other Americans have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in its 119-year history.

Nobel Prize In Physiology/Medicine
Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice, share this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. What is the Hepatitis C virus? It’s a deadly blood-borne virus that can cause liver cancer in otherwise healthy people. At one point, the virus was killing approximately one million people around the world every year. Since its discovery, antiviral drugs have been developed to fight the virus and the disease can now be cured.

English: Event Horizon Telescope [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]
Nobel Prize In Physics
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three people: Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez, all of whom worked on proving Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. What is this theory and why is it so significant in discovering the ins and outs of our universe? Well, the theory of relativity suggests what happens with physical objects when there’s no gravity, as well as what happens to gravity in relation to other natural forces. Einstein’s theory suggested that things like black holes could exist in the universe—although he didn’t actually think they did. It wasn’t until after his death that Penrose used advanced mathematical models to prove that black holes can form and do exist in our universe. Years later, Genzel and Ghez, each led groups of astronomers in the monitoring of a region of the Milky Way galaxy called Sagittarius A*. Why Sagittarius A*? This is the area of the Milky Way galaxy where some of the brightest stars are located. While mapping and learning about this area, both Genzel’s and Ghez’s teams noticed that a strong pull was causing the cluster of stars to spin rapidly. Using incredibly powerful telescopes and other unique tools and instruments, Genzel and Ghez were able to discover something that had never been seen before: evidence of a black hole. Pretty awesome, right?