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The Nobel Prize 2006

Published måndag 16 oktober 2006 kl 14.39
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Roger Kornberg
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Edmund Phelps
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Orhan Pamuk
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John Mather
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George Smoot
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Cosmic Background Radiation
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Professor Mohammed Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, a micro credit institution, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize

The 2006 Nobel Prizes were announced in Stockholm starting with the Medicine prize, on the 2nd of October.

The Nobel Prizes are announced out over two week period  in Sweden and Norway.

The prize-awarding institutions are scientific and literary bodies in Sweden, and a committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament to choose the peace laureate.

The Swedish institutions invite nominations from past laureates and selected university professors. For the peace prize, members of governments and parliaments worldwide can also make nominations.

The Awards

All awards are always presented on the 10th of December, the anniversary of the death in 1896 of Alfred Nobel, theSwedish industrialist who set up and financed the prizes.

Occasionally no winner is announced.

The identities of the winners are announced simultaneously, with citations explaining the choice, at a news conference in the Swedish capital and by couriers sent to the Stockholm offices of international news agencies.

The peace prize is announced and awarded in Oslo, the Norwegian capital. Alfred Nobel designated that the Peace Prize be awarded in Norway which at the time was joined to Sweden in a political union. Nobel Committee members almost never discuss their choices in public, and runners-up aren’t revealed for 50 years.

Each Award is 10 million Swedish kronor, or some $1.4 million US dollars, plus a diploma, and gold medal. Laureates and their families are invited to gala ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo which are followed by lavish banquets with Scandinavian royalty.

2006 Nobel Medicine Prize

Americans Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello won the Nobel medicine prize for discovering a method of turning off selected genes, an important research tool that scientists hope will lead to new treatments for HIV, cancer and other illnesses.

The Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm honoured the pair for their relatively recent discovery of RNA interference, which it called ”a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information.”

Fire’s and Mello’s findings, published in 1998, opened a new field of research that has helped researchers break down, or silence, specific genes to help neutralize harmful viruses and mutations. RNA interference occurs in plants, animals, and humans. It is already being widely used in basic science as a method to study the function of genes and it may lead to novel therapies in the future. AIDS researchers hope RNA interference can help them develop new drugs to fight viruses such as HIV.

”It looks very encouraging today, but it’s too early to say whether it will find an important place in the therapeutic arsenal” against HIV, said Goran Hansson, chairman of the prize committee.

Erna Moller, a member of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska, said RNA interference has already had a dramatic effect on the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is a biomolecule that can store and transmit genetic information, similar to the role of DNA. In 1989, Americans Sidney Altman and Thomas Cech were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering RNA’s catalytic properties.

Fire, 47, of Stanford University, and Mello, 45, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, published their seminal work in the journal Nature in 1998. The two men will share the prize, including 10 million kronor ($1.4 US dollar million).

The Nobel committees typically honour discoveries that have been tested over decades, but Hansson said the findings by Fire and Mello had a big impact even though they were published just eight years ago.

Last year’s medicine prize went to Australians Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren for discovering that bacteria, not stress, causes ulcers.

2006 Nobel Physics Prize

Americans John C. Mather and George F. Smoot won the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics for work that helped cement the big-bang theory of how the universe was created and deepen understanding of the origin of galaxies and stars.

The scientists shared the prestigious 10 million kronor ($1.4 million US dollar) award for discovering the nature of ”blackbody radiation” - cosmic background radiation believed to stem from the big bang - the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm said.

Mather, 60, and Smoot, 61, based their work on measurements done with the help of the NASA-launched Cosmic Background Explorer satellite in 1989. They were able to observe the universe in its early stages about 380,000 years after it was born. Ripples in the light they detected also helped demonstrate how galaxies came together over time. 

”It is one of the greatest discoveries of the century. I would call it the greatest. It increases our knowledge of our place in the universe.” Per Carlson, chairman of the Nobel committee for physics.

Mather, works at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Smoot works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. Mather said he and Smoot did not realize how important their work was at the time of their discovery. However, their work was soon hailed as a major breakthrough.

Mather received standing ovations when he presented the COBE results to the American Astronomical Society in 1990. After the results were published in 1992, famed astronomer and author Stephen Hawking called it ”the greatest discovery of the century, if not of all times.” By confirming the predictions of the big-bang theory, which states that the universe was born of a dense and incredibly hot state billions of years ago, with direct quantitative evidence, the scientists transformed the study of the early universe from a largely theoretical pursuit into a new era of direct observation and measurement.

The COBE project gave strong support for the big-bang theory because it is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave radiation measured by the satellite. The academy called Mather the driving force behind the COBE project while Smoot was responsible for measuring small variations in the temperature of the radiation. 

The very detailed observations that the laureates have carried out from the COBE satellite have played a major role in the development of modern cosmology into a precise science,” Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Since 1986, Americans have either won or shared the physics prize with people from other countries 15 times. Last year, Americans John L. Hall and Roy J. Glauber and German Theodor W. Haensch won the prize for work that could lead to better long-distance communication and more precise navigation worldwide and in space.

2006 Nobel Chemistry Prize

American Roger Kornberg, the son of a Nobel laureate, won the 2006 Nobel chemistry prize for showing how genes are copied, a process essential to how cells develop and life itself.

Kornberg’s prize came 47 years after he watched his father Arthur accept the medicine Nobel in Stockholm for his own gene work. It also crowned the success for U.S. scientists, who have swept all the 2006 Nobel science awards.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences, which makes the10-million-crown ($1.36 US dollar million) award, said Roger Kornberg’s research into how ribonucleic acid, RNA, moves geneticinformation around the body was of ”fundamental medical importance.”

Kornberg’s discovery showed how DNA, which he has describedas a silent map, is ”read” by RNA and converted into a protein within a cell.

Kornberg was 12 when he traveled to Stockholm to see his father receive the 1959 Nobel for medicine for studies of how genetic information is ferried from one DNA molecule to another.

As an undergraduate, the younger Kornberg said he briefly considered majoring in English literature, but his passion for science won out, he told a news conference at Stanford University in California, where he and his father both still work.

The Kornbergs are the eighth set of parent and child laureates.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences said the process of gene copying, or genetic transcription, was central to life.

”(It) is a key mechanism to the biological machinery. If it does not work, we die,”Per Ahlberg, member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry

And because the transfer of information helps explain how a cell becomes a nerve or liver or muscle cell, understanding transcription is crucial for the development of various therapeutic applications of stem cells.

Kornberg used a process called X-ray crystallography – in which molecules in a chemical reaction are ”frozen” into crystals and photographed using X-rays – to capture transcription in action and in incredible detail. These images showed the complex structure RNA uses to make this translation.

2006 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

The 2006 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences has been won by an American economist who developed theories about unemployment that better capture how workers and companies actually make decisions about jobs.

Edmund S. Phelps, 73, a professor at Columbia University in New York, was cited Monday for research into the relationship between inflation and unemployment, giving

Phelps’ work has fundamentally altered our views on how the macroeconomy operates.” Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Phelps told reporters in his New York apartment that he learned of the prize in a phone call from Sweden that woke him early in the morning. He said he had waited for the award for a long time, but wasn’t expecting it this year.

Phelps was born in Chicago and earned his bachelor’s degree at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1955 and his Ph.D. at Yale University in 1959. He has been the McVickar professor of political economy at Columbia since 1982.

The Swedish academy said the theoretical framework Phelps developed in the late 1960s helped economists understand the root of soaring prices and unemployment in the 1970s and the limitations of policies to deal with these problems. His framework helped central banks shift their focus toward using inflation expectations to set monetary policy rather than concentrating on money supply and demand.

Phelps argued that this view did not take workers’ or companies’ decision-making into account, and his research showed that their expectations about both unemployment andinflation affected their actions.

Phelps told reporters that his goal was to make economic theory better reflect the real world. ”I’ve been interested in trying to put people in a more realistic way into our economic models,” Phelps said. ”In particular I’ve emphasized that people have to form expectations about the current state of the world and also expectations about the future, including the consequences for the future of their actions in the present.”

He said this is not easy because people make decisions with incomplete information about the state of the world and how the economy works. ”It’s a great big mess, but I think the messiness was not sufficiently appreciated earlier,” he said.

Phelps did his work at a time economists believed that a government could not lower unemployment without triggering inflation.

The economics prize is the only one of the awards not established in the will left by Swedish industrialistAlfred Nobel 111 years ago. The medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace prizes were first awarded in 1901, while the economics prize was set up separately by the Swedish central bank in 1968. It carries an award of $1.4 million US dollars.

Last year’s laureates were Robert J. Aumann, a citizen of Israel and the United States, and American Thomas C. Schelling, for their work in game-theory analysis. Both men were interviewed by Radio Sweden in Sweden just before they received their award

2006 Nobel Literature Prize

Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, author of ”My Name is Red”, ”Snow” and half-a-dozen other novels, won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday for a body of work that probes the crossroads of Muslim and Western cultures.

The Swedish Academy said Pamuk ”in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city (Istanbul) has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures.”

The 54-year-old writer is Turkey’s best-known author at home and abroad, but also a political rebel whose pronouncements on his country’s history have put its respect for freedom of expression under the international spotlight.

In his home country, Pamuk has a reputation as a social commentator even though he sees himself principally a fiction writer with no political agenda,” the Swedish Academy

Turkey’s decades-old striving to become European – characterized by clashes between Islam and secularism, tradition and modernity – along with the painful impact of an aggressive westernization after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, permeate Pamuk’s writing.

Pamuk was the first author in the Muslim world to publicly condemn the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and he took a stand for his Turkish colleague Yasar Kemal when the latter was put on trial in 1995.

Pamuk himself faced prosecution after telling a Swiss newspaper last year that 30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians had been killed during World War I under the Ottoman Turks.

The charges against him sparked widespread international protest, and were dropped earlier this year.

Just hours before the Swedish Academy made its announcement, the French lower house of parliament approved a bill making it a punishable offence to deny that the massacre of Armenians constituted genocide.

Pamuk is the first Turk to win the prestigious prize, and had been rumoured as one of the frontrunners this year. A chain-smoker, he mostly shuns the public eye, writing for long hours in an Istanbul flat overlooking the bridge over the Bosphorus linking Europe and Asia.

Born in 1952 into a prosperous, secular family, Pamuk was intent on becoming a painter in his youth. He studied architecture at Istanbul Technical University but later turned to writing and studied journalism in Istanbul.

He published his prize-winning first novel, ”Cevdet Bey and His Sons”, in 1982, a family chronicle in which he describes the shift from a traditional Ottoman family environment to a more Western lifestyle.

His second novel, ”The House of Silence”, came out in 1983, but it was his third book, ”The White Castle”, published two years later, that gave him an international reputation.

Structured as a historical novel set in 17th century Istanbul, it is ”on a symbolic level, the European novel captured then allied with an alien culture,” the Swedish Academy.

With the 2000 book ”My Name is Red” – a love story, murder mystery and discussion on the role of individuality in art – Pamuk explores the relationship between East and West, describing an artist’s different relationship to his work in each culture.

His latest novel is the critically-acclaimed ”Snow”, set in Turkey’s border town of Kars, once a border city between the Ottoman and Russian empires.

The novel becomes a tale of love and poetic creativity just as it knowledgeably describes the political and religious conflicts that characterise Turkish society of our day,” The Swedish Academy

Pamuk will take home the prize sum of 10 million kronor, or some 1.37 million US dollars.

2006 Nobel Peace Prize

Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for grassroots efforts to lift millions out of poverty that earned him the nickname ”banker to the poor”.

Yunus, 66, set up a new kind of bank in 1976 to lend to the very poorest in his native Bangladesh, particularly women, enabling them to start up small businesses without collateral.

In doing so, he pioneered microcredit, a system copied in more than 100 nations from the United States to Uganda.

”It’s very happy news for me and also for the nation. But it has burdened us with further responsibility,” he told reporters at his home in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

”Now the war against poverty will be further intensified across the world. It will consolidate the struggle against poverty through microcredit in most of the countries.”

The secretive five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee said the elimination of poverty was a path to peace and democracy.

”Across cultures and civilisations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.” Nobel Award Citation.

”Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights,” the committee added.

(AP/Reuters/AFP/SR EKOT)

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