At the age of 15, Prof Sir John Gurdon ranked last out of the 250 boys in his Eton year group at biology, and was in the bottom set in every other science subject.
Sixty-four years later he has been recognised as one of the finest minds of his generation after being awarded the £750,000 annual prize, which he shares with Japanese stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka.
Speaking after learning of his award in London on Monday, Sir John revealed that his school report still sits above his desk at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, which is named in his honour.
my mom always said grades are important, but they’re not the most important thing.
I love how he framed that. He probably looked at it every day and said, “Oh yeah?”
Grades are poor measures of one’s potential to be curious.
Serge Haroche and David J. WIneland share the honor for their work in corralling and manipulating single particles while preserving their quantum state. This work has laid the foundations for the (hopefully) coming era of quantum computing, which relies on both manipulating single particles and preserving precise quantum states to use as bits.
Haroche was able to capture photons between superconducting mirrors for almost a tenth of a second! Big deal, right? That’s enough time for them to travel 40,000 kilometers, a new record for photon trapping.
Check the link above for the Nobel committee’s summary (in understandable terms!!)
NOBEL PRIZE ANNOUNCEMENT!
Congratulations to the winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine:
John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka are the joint winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.
Check out this article for more information on pluripotent stem cells and these two scientist’s contribution to medicine:
This was a pretty obvious choice this year, but that does not diminish the incredible science done by these two gentlemen. I guess what I’m really saying is “I totally picked right, so go me!”
I agree that Wisconsin’s James Thomson could/should have been included in this award along with Yamanaka (although Gurdon’s work predates them). The protein factors that turn on the appropriate genes to convert adult cells back into an embryonic or stem cell-like state would not be known without Dr. Thomson’s work. We got mad love for ya, Dr. Thomson.
It’s one of the fastest “research to Nobel” turnarounds that I know of, but I think it’s well-deserved. It may yet be decades before we see medical benefits resulting from this sort of work, but we have come close to decoding one of the most basic questions of biology: What makes this cell do this thing, and how can we make it do something else?
Happy Nobel-mas! More awards to come …
Reasons to be Cheerful: Street-Corner Science
People are still fighting wars, they’re still arguing whether evolution is real and whether we naked apes are burning enough dinosaur leftovers to cook the planet. If you’re a cynic, there’s plenty of reasons to be unhappy.
But the fact that we live in a world where a Nobel prize-winning physicist like Leon Lederman will sit down on a street corner and answer physics questions from passers-by? That makes me feel good.
(via Boing Boing)
Source: Boing Boing
Steve Jobs lived 8 years with pancreatic cancer, Nobel winner Ralph Steinman for 4, but it was Steinman who beat the odds. Here’s why:
Steve Jobs and new Nobelist Ralph Steinman both died of pancreatic cancer, a killer that’s hard to spot until it’s very far advanced. But fundamental differences in their diseases made Steinman’s survival more miraculous than Jobs’. Katherine Harmon at Scientific American has a great explanation of this, starting with the fact that the pancreas is made up of two different kinds of cells:
The pancreas itself is essentially two different organs, which means two distinct kinds of tissue—and two very different types of cancer, points out [Leonard Saltz, acting chief of the gastrointestinal oncology service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center]. The most common kind of pancreatic cancer[s] [the kind Steinman had] originate in what is known as the exocrine portion of the pancreas. This is the main mass of the organ, which makes digestive enzymes that get shuttled to the gastrointestinal tract via specialized ducts.
“Scattered in that larger organ are thousands of tiny islands,” Satlz explains. “These are islands of endocrine tissue,” which makes hormones that are secreted into the blood. It was a cancer of these islet cells that Jobs had.
For people with Jobs’ cancer, which is quite rare, survival is measured in years. For those with Steinman’s cancer, it’s measured in months.
This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to the discovery of quasicrystals. These nonrepeating, yet ordered crystalline structures were first described by winner Dan Shechtman in 1984.
But as far back as 500 years ago, Islamic artists were using these patterns in mosque tilings. Their intricate patterns were nearly perfect quasicrystals, matching the beauty of nature in a man-made form.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2011 goes to Israeli Dan Shechtman for his discovery of quasicrystals, which are trying so hard to be crystals but just can’t quite make it.
Actually, quasicrystals are a form of crystal structure that is ordered but not repeating (as opposed to, say, table salt, which has a very ordered and repeating crystal structure).
Above is a picture of a silver/aluminum quasicrystal (via Wikimedia)
The pleasure of working as a scientist is having another series of methods to see how the world around us works. That’s how people should be taught science as young children: a way to approach the world. It’s so much fun that people would use it their whole lives whether or not they go into science.