Carol Perelman/ Science’s Most Exciting Week: The Nobel Prizes

Jewish Link – This week the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prizes in Medicine/Physiology, Physics and Chemistry to seven persevering, rigorous, innovative and creative scientists who have opened new horizons in the knowledge of paleogenomics, quantum information and “bio-orthogonal” and “click” chemistry. Let’s explore some of these areas to understand what is driving current scientific research, and its future relevance to our daily lives.

Medicine/Physiology

Svante Pääbo received the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for his discoveries on the genome of extinct hominids and his contribution to the understanding of human evolution: what is known as paleogenomics; the intersection between paleontology, anthropology and genetics. Swedish-Estonian Pääbo figured out how to use genome sequencing techniques to extract DNA from the remains of Neanderthals that lived millions of years ago finding not only our similarities and differences with this now-extinct ancestor, and the details in human evolution, but also discovering an ancestor until 2010 not known: the hominin of denisova. To read more about it I recommend the note of the magazine As you see? edited by Estrella Burgos for the DGDC of the UNAM.

But this is also interesting Reward laureate because although Päävo was born of an extramarital affair and was primarily cared for by his mother, the biochemist Karin Pääbo, we cannot fail to mention that he has become the eighth person to win this important award after one of his parents won it. The list of the eight Nobels awarded to parents + children are: Marie and Pierre + Irène Joliot-Curie, William + Lawrence Bragg, Niels + Aage Bohr, Hans + Ulf von Euler, Arthur + Roger Kornberg, Manne + Kai Siegbahn, Joseph John + Gorge Thomsonand now Sune Bergstrom who won it in 1982 + Svante Pääbo this year 2022.

This partially demonstrates that “the apple does not fall very far from the tree”.

Physical

It is clear that quantum theory has already had a great application in our daily lives: what would we do without the precision with which it locates us in space-time? gps that we use in applications like Waze, Find my friends Y Google maps. However, now, quantum mechanics already allows something else: quantum computing and that communications satellites like the Chinese Micius operate thanks to the work of the three winners of this 2022 on entangled photons thousands of kilometers away.

Awarded to “Alain Aspect, John F Clauser Y Anton Zeilinger for their experiments with entangled photons… and being pioneers in quantum information science”, these researchers have found a way to influence a photon (a packet of light), even if it is at a distance from another, through its “entanglement”, allowing the safe passage of quantum information that in practical terms could be applied to data encryption.

His experiments show that two entangled particles without being together behave as one. This knowledge allows the elaboration of technological tools that are under development and that are based on quantum information. Each of the three laureates worked independently and advanced knowledge about this application of quantum theory.

To delve further I recommend the job of nelly touch for The Economist in which he interviewed one of the few physicists working on it in Mexico, Dr. Daniel Sahagún Sánchez, an atomic physicist from UNAM.

Chemistry

The dream of every chemist is to be able to make reactions simple, predictable, efficient and elegant. And this is exactly what they have achieved Barry sharpless Y Morten Meldal in that similar to Lego plastic block toys where regardless of the size of the pieces they always have the same point of union; they have placed complex but easy-to-hook molecules that, regardless of the compounds in question, always lock together through a predetermined step that is speeded up with a copper catalyst.

If we could hear it at the atomic level, it is so clear that we would hear the “click” between the group of three nitrogens called the azide group (N3-) and an alkyne group (carbons with triple bonds) forming a simple triazole ring. Thus the chemistry of “functionality” or as he put it sharplessthe minimalist chemistry that he himself named the “click”.

However beyond that, the chemistry of Stanford Carolyn Bertozzieighth woman to win the laureate of chemistry, applied this “click” reaction in living beings with the idea of ​​designing specific drugs and with a clear target for living cells; for example in cancer cells: delivering a treatment in a targeted way and causing a chemical reaction in the cells without interfering with their biology, or as she called it doing bio-orthogonal chemistry. “I always wanted as a scientist to make contributions to human health,” she said. Bertozzi during his telephone conversation with the Committee upon learning of his award.

So sharpless, Meldal Y Bertozzi they will share the Reward laureate of Chemistry 2022 for his work on “click” chemistry and its application to living beings, on “bio-orthogonal” chemistry.

Interesting to mention that Barry sharplessborn in Philadelphia but currently working on Scripps Research in The Jolla, Californiawon his first PNobel laureate in Chemistry for starting down this path of robust chemical reactions in 2001, today becoming just the fifth person to win two Awards laureate.

They accompany him in the select list John Barden (who received two in physics, one for inventing the transistor and the other for his work on superconductivity), Marie Curie (one in chemistry for discovering the element polonium and radium, and another in physics for his work on radioactivity), Linus Pauling (one in chemistry for his work on complex structures and one in peace for his activism against weapons of mass destruction), Frederick sanger (Twice Chemistry Award for discovering the structure of insulin and for inventing DNA sequencing techniques).

I will leave the Nobel Prizes for Literature, Peace and Economics for other experts to deal with. Not to mention the funny and useless Ig-Nobel that happened a couple of weeks ago and that make fun of absurd, grotesque and improbable advances but in which scientists find a space for laughter and somewhat “nerdy” fun.

In the meantime, have a noble evening; of creativity, imagination and a lot of innovation. Because as he himself said alfred laureate: “I am satisfied if out of a thousand ideas I have, at least one turns out to be good”.


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Carol Perelman/ Science’s Most Exciting Week: The Nobel Prizes