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Sunday, October 9, 2011

And your 2011 Nobel Prize winners are….

Each year on December 10th, the Nobel Prize Committee awards prizes for achievement in a variety of fields.  The day commemorates the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite.  This year, five prizes will be awarded, and the following people will be heading to Stockholm to be honored:

In physics, the prize is going to Americans Saul Perlmutter and Adam Reiss, and to Australian Brian Schimidt.  Ever hear of dark matter dark energy?  You can thank these guys.  They proved that the universe is not only expanding, but that this expansion is accelerating in a way that can’t be accounted for with known factors like regular matter and energy.

The chemistry prize goes to Israeli Daniel Schectman for his discovery of quasicrystals.  Crystals have regularly repeating patterns.  Quasicrystals have patterns too, but they don’t repeat.  This could have implications in material science.

The Nobel for medicine was split three ways by researchers who had jointly worked out how key components of our immune systems work.  The prize went to Jules Hoffmann, born in Luxembourg but living in France, and Bruce Beutler, born in the U.S. and living in the U.S. and Ralph Steinman, born in Canada but not currently living.  Normally, the Nobel cannot be given posthumously, however, because the committee selected Steinman before hearing of his death, his estate will receive the prize.

There is also a literature prize that went to Swedish poet Tomas Trantromer.

Finally, the peace prize that was shared by three women who led non-violent campaigns to advance women’s rights and world peace:  Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, also from Liberia, and Tawakkul Karman from Yemen.

Hat tip:  Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.