Lego chemistry and advances in quantum physics, among the 2022 Nobel Prize winners

(By Claudio Campanari) New developments in “click” or “Lego” chemistry that open up hope in the fight against cancer, the way to generate supercomputers without being hacked, the genomic sequencing of Neanderthal man that gave rise to a new discipline , paleogenomics, and organizations that fight for peace between Russia and Ukraine were some of the Nobel Prize winners this year.

The prizes were awarded in December in Oslo, Norway, in a ceremony that was worth the reflection of the Nobel Prize winner for Literature, the French Annie Ernaux, who noted “the solemnity, the magnificence of the prize” and declared that the institution that awards it is ” for men”, something that “is seen in the taste for a tradition, that of the suits”.

“It’s hard to say, but I think yes, the Nobel laureates have to change,” said the 82-year-old.

The traditional prize has been awarded since November 27, 1895 when Alfred Nobel signed his last will, donating most of his fortune to scientists who make advances in the field of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. world.

The prizes are announced in October each year and are awarded every December 10, which is the day Alfred Nobel died.

The Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Economics are awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, while the Karolinska Institute awards that of Medicine or Physiology and the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament that of Peace.

The Nobel Prize in Physics went to the French scientists Alain Aspect, the American John Clauser and the Austrian Anton Zeilinger. who have specialized in quantum mechanics, the science that describes the behavior of subatomic particles; that is, physics at the smallest possible scales.

It’s that their work could pave the way for a new generation of powerful computers and unhackable telecommunications systems.

When reflecting on this award, Leandro Tosi, a Balseiro Institute professor and CONICET researcher, leader of the Quantum Circuits group within the Devices and Sensors Group of the Bariloche Atomic Center, maintained that “it was something that should have happened a long time ago and I’m glad you’ve arrived.”

“I think we are experiencing a moment of great enthusiasm in the scientific community, which is why I say that the Nobel Prize is not accidental. We are in the era of quantum technologies, of the second quantum revolution,” he told Télam.

And he continued: “Just as the understanding of the behavior of the microscopic world gave rise to developments as fundamental as the transistor or the laser, thus changing the lives of all people forever, the application of fundamental principles of quantum mechanics such as the superposition of states or entanglement, is giving rise to new devices that have no analogue to something everyday and in that sense is highly disruptive,” with likely implications for health, food, and industry.”

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to researchers Carolyn Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and Barry Sharples for their contributions to “click” chemistry, dubbed “Lego” chemistry because of the way it works.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences highlighted the simplicity and efficiency with which their research has contributed to a greater functionality of “click” chemistry, which allows molecules to join together, like Lego pieces, which can result in the development of new cancer treatments.

This recognition was valued by the chemist and CONICET researcher María Sol Ballari, who was not surprised by the award.

“The announcement of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year was a fact that for those of us who work in the area it was a matter of time. Barry Sharpless and Morten Meldal laid the foundations of what today has become routine chemistry for many: Click Chemistry , and Carolyn Bertozzi took this chemistry to a new level, applying it to living microorganisms, thus defining Bioorthogonal Chemistry,” Ballari told Télam.

In the field of Medicine, the Swedish researcher Svante Pääbo was awarded for having achieved the genomic sequencing of Neanderthal man, from which a new scientific discipline was created, paleogenomics, which gives an idea of ​​the complexity involved in current configuration of the genetics of current human beings.

Graciela Bailliet, PhD in Natural Sciences and Conicet researcher, explained to Télam the relevance of this work: “At the time that Neanderthal sequencing work came out (2010) it was impressive because it gave an idea of ​​the complexity involved in the current configuration of the genetics of present-day human beings”.

As for the prize awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux, the Swedish Academy recognized her “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she discovers the roots, the estrangements and the collective restrictions of personal memory”.

And, the panel noted, for her “uncompromising” body of work spanning five decades that explores “a life marked by vast disparities in gender, language and class.”

Meanwhile, the Belarusian political activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties were the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to protect the fundamental rights of citizens and demonstrate the importance of civil society in building peace and democracy, the Nobel Committee said.

Beliatski -imprisoned in his country-, the Russian NGO Memorial -dissolved by the Court- and the Center for Civil Liberties (CCL) of Ukraine, were honored for their commitment to “human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence “.

“The people of Ukraine want peace more than anyone in the world. But peace for an attacked country is not achieved by laying down arms. That would not be peace, but occupation,” CCL director Oleksandra Matviichuk said at the ceremony. delivery that took place in Oslo, in which he said that he had to write his speech by candlelight, after the Russian attacks against the country’s energy infrastructure.

In economics, three Americans, Ben Bernanke, Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig, won the Nobel Prize, officially known as the Bank of Sweden Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

The studies by the three researchers were recognized for contributing to ‘significantly improving knowledge and understanding of the role of banks in the economy, especially in a context of crisis.


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Lego chemistry and advances in quantum physics, among the 2022 Nobel Prize winners