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NOBELS 2021: on the verge of simplicity and freedom (Part I. Physics and Chemistry)

NOBELS 2021: on the verge of simplicity and freedom (Part I. Physics and Chemistry)
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Photo: nobelchannel.com

 

All 2021 Nobel Prize winners are announced. However, due to the COVID-19 coronavirus infection pandemic, an award ceremony of the Nobel Prize laureates and the gala banquet in Stockholm (however, the same as in the past) have been canceled this year.

The winners in scientific categories are climatologists, chemists, molecular neuroscientist… They all worked fruitfully to solve the complex problems that our planet constantly creates. But among the Nobeliates of this year, surprisingly, there are no representatives of the fairer sex… The only woman laureate was still found, however, she is in the nomination “Peace Prize”…

Our almanac will briefly tell you about the heroes, their development and the difficult paths to reaching the top.

 

#1 PHYSICS. MODELING THE CLIMATE

 

Laureates: Syukuro Manabe (Japan), Klaus Hasselman (Germany), Giorgio Parisi (Italy).

Awarded to Manaba and Hasselman “for physical modeling of the Earth’s climate, quantitative assessment of variability and reliable forecasting of global warming,” and Parisi “for the discovery of the interaction of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atoms to planetary scales”.

 

NOBELS 2021: on the verge of simplicity and freedom (Part I. Physics and Chemistry)
Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselman, Giorgio Parisi / Niklas Menmehed © Nobel Prize Information Service / nobelprize.org

 

This year, the Nobel Prize in Physics has been split between Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselman and Giorgio Parisi. Parisi is a theoretical physicist and the other two are climate simulators whose work laid the foundations for our understanding of how carbon dioxide affects climate.

Japanese meteorologist and climatologist Manabe and German oceanographer and climate modeler Hasselman received one part of the prize for physical modeling of the Earth’s climate. The committee stressed that Manabe and Hasselman have revolutionized the understanding of complex systems.

A climate model is a computer program designed to model the Earth’s climate in order to understand and predict its behavior. Climate models are largely based on a set of mathematical equations that describe the physical laws governing the behavior of the atmosphere and ocean, as well as their interactions with other parts of the Earth’s climate system, such as the land surface or ice sheets.

In the 1970s, Klaus Hasselmann studied the relationship between climate and weather and proved that the climate system can remain stable despite chaotic weather changes. It was Hasselman who discovered such a concept as the “climate footprint”, that is, the human influence on the climate system.

The second part of the prize went to the Italian theoretical physicist Parisi. Since the 1980s, he has been working in the field of theoretical physics with complex, disordered systems. They include spin glasses – dilute magnetic alloys. Giorgio was able to identify patterns in the chaotic movement and describe them mathematically. According to the Nobel Committee, the discoveries of the Italian scientist will make it possible to better understand such a complex physical system as the climate, and better predict its changes.

Syukuro Manabe (born 1931) – Japanese-American climatologist, pioneer of computer modeling of climate change, in particular global climate change, one of the first to study the phenomenon of global warming – it was back in the 1970s. He is a research fellow at Princeton University and previously has worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Klaus Hasselmann (born 1931) – German physicist, oceanologist, meteorologist, climatologist, statistician. Doctor of Philosophy (1957). Emerit is founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology. The foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. One of the most cited scientists in the field of global warming for the period 1991-2001.

Giorgio Parisi (born 1948) is an Italian theoretical physicist. Professor, Foreign Member of the French Academy of Sciences (1992), US National Academy of Sciences (2003) and American Philosophical Society (2013). He works at Sapienza University of Rome.

 

#2 CHEMISTRY. WORKING WITH MOLECULES

 

Laureates: Benjamin List (Germany), David MacMillan (the USA)

Awarded for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.

 

NOBELS 2021: on the verge of simplicity and freedom (Part I. Physics and Chemistry)
Benjamin List, David MacMillan / Niklas Menmehed © Nobel Prize Information Service / nobelprize.org

 

List and MacMillan confirmed their involvement in the art of building molecules not in words, but in deeds, having received an award for it. They managed to create a unique and – like everything ingenious – simple tool for designing molecules: organocatalysis. The development has had a major impact on research in the field of pharmaceuticals – chemistry has become more environmentally friendly.

Chemists design molecules. And the success of research in many industries depends on how well they do it. This kind of design work requires catalysts – substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions.

Take catalysts in cars, for example. They convert toxic substances in exhaust gases into less harmful ones. And also in our bodies – thousands of catalysts in the form of enzymes…

Benjamin List (born 1968) is a German chemist. Professor at the University of Cologne, director and professor at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research. He also works at the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design at Hokkaido University.

David MacMillan (born 1968) is a British-American organic chemist. Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Princeton University, Member of the Royal Society of London and the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Corresponding Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“This concept of catalysis is as simple as it is ingenious, and the trick is that many are wondering why we haven’t thought about it before,” said Johan Aqvist, the chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

 

Read Part II

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