Nobel Prizes 2023

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Nobel Prize in Medicine 2023

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2023 was awarded jointly to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman “for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19”.

  • Contribution of Kariko and Weissman– In human cells, genetic information encoded in DNA is transferred to mSessenger RNA (mRNA), which is used as a template for protein production.
  • In the 1980s, researchers were able to produce mRNA “in vitro”, which was highly unstable and triggered the immune system, leading to inflammatory responsesin the body.
  • Kariko and Weissman found out that mRNA with chemically modified basesdid not lead to inflammatory reactions.
  • They also found that using mRNA with altered bases significantly increased protein production.
  • Kariko and Weissman’s discoveries helped to develop two base-modified mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccine)at record speed.
  • mRNA vaccine – mRNA vaccines only introduce a piece of the genetic material that corresponds to a viral protein (usually a protein found on the membrane of the virus called spike protein).
  • Therefore, it does not exposeindividuals to the virus itself.
  • It then activate the immune system to produce antibodies that help counter an infection from a live virus.
  • Significance
    • Helps in vaccine development
    • Has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of deadly illnesses including cancer, HIV, and influenza
  • Advantages over traditional vaccine approaches– It can be developed more quickly and inexpensively than traditional vaccines because it does not require the production of viral proteins or inactivation of the virus.
  • The mRNA vaccines can be easily modifiedto target new variants of the virus by simply changing the mRNA sequence that encodes the spike protein.
  • Challenges– Since the mRNA molecules are fragile, it was difficult to deliver them to the system without altering them.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded 114 times since 1901. There have been 227 recipients including this year’s winners, but Kariko is only the 13th woman to receive the accolade.


Nobel Prize in Physics 2023

The 2023 Nobel Prize for Physics was shared by 3 scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillie for their “experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses for the study of electron dynamics in matter.”

  • Contribution– They developed methods to produce ultra-short pulses of light called as attosecond pulse which enables to see directly into the super-fast world of electrons.

Attosecond is billionth of a billionth of a second which is 1×10−18 of a second.

  • Contribution of Anne L’Huillier– In 1987, overtones (waves of light) were produced by passing IR laser beam through a noble gas whose wavelength was an integer fraction of the beam.
  • When multiple overtones were created in the gas, they began to interact with each other.
  • When the peak of one overtone merges with the peak of other, it produces an overtone of greater intensity through constructive interference.
  • But when the peak of an overtone merges with the trough of another, they cancel each other out, in destructive interference.
  • This setup was fine-tuned which created intense pulses of light each a few attoseconds long(due to constructive interference) that doesn’t last longer (due to destructive interference).
  • Contribution of Pierre Agostini– In 2001, his research group produced a series of 250-attosecond light pulses, or a pulse train.
  • Contribution of Ferenc Krausz– At the same time, his team developed a technique to separate an individual 650-attosecond pulse from a pulse train.
  • Using that, the researchers were able to measure the energy of some electrons released by some krypton atoms.

Challenges in imaging electrons

  • Electrons are the negatively charged sub atomic particles which zoom around the denser nucleus in an atom.
  • They are lighter and interact faster, in the attosecond realm.
  • Thus picturing of electrons was difficult through camera that doesn’t have lower exposure in the order of attosecond.


Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023 was awarded to Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots.

  • Independently of each other, Ekimov and Brus succeeded in creating quantum dots, and Bawendi revolutionised the chemical production of it.
Quantum Dots
  • They are nanoparticles which exhibit unique optical properties due to their small physical size.
  • Their properties can be changed by changing their size.
  • At the nanometres scale, matter exhibit size-dependent properties because quantum physical forces start to dominate.
  • Contribution of Alexei Ekimov – In the early 1980s, he succeeded in creating size-dependent quantum effects in coloured glass.
  • He demonstrated this using glasses tinted with copper chloride.
  • Contribution of Louis Brus– In 1983, he and his colleagues prepared similar crystals in a liquid solution, rather than in a glass.
  • These crystals also interacted with light differently depending on small variations in their size.
  • Contribution of Moungi Bawendi– In 1993, he developed a technique to make these crystals of well-defined sizes and with high optical quality.


 Applications of Quantum Dots

  • It can light computer monitors and televisionscreens where they can emit light of different colours.
  • They are also used to map biological tissuesby biochemists.
  • In photovoltaic cells, to improve the absorption and efficiency in converting solar light into electricity.
  • It is used in treating certain cancers for targeted drug deliveryand other therapeutic measures.
  • It can be used as security markers on currency and documents as an anti-counterfeit measure.
  • Broadly, they can be used as fluorescent markers to tag and track objects.


Nobel Prize in Literature, 2023

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2023 is awarded to the Norwegian author Jon Fosse for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.

  • Fosse was born in 1959 in Norway and writes in Norwegian Nynorsk.

Bokmal and Nynorsk are the two different standards of writing in Norwegian language.

  • His writings spans a variety of genres consisting of plays, novels, poetry collections, essays, children’s books and translations.
  • His style of writing novels famously known as ‘Fosse minimalism’.
  • His work has been translated into more than 40 languages.
Notable works of Jon Fosse
  • I Am the Wind
  • Melancholy
  •  Boathouse
  • The Dead Dogs
  • A New Name: Septology VI-VII (finalist of the International Booker Prize, 2022)

Last year, the Literature Nobel was awarded to French author Annie Ernaux for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.



Nobel Prize for Peace, 2023

The 2023 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all”.

  • Narges Mohammadi– An engineer-turned-activist and a human right advocate.
  • She became the 2ndIranian women after Shirin Ebadi in 2003 and 19th women to receive peace prize.

Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 was jointly awarded to Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Centre for Civil Liberties.

  • Contribution– Mohammadi has long campaigned for women’s rights and for the abolition of the death penalty.
  • She opposed the use of torture and sexualized violenceagainst women political prisoners in Iran.
  • She is currently in a detention facility under the charges of spreading anti-state propaganda and defamation and was sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison.
  • Honours/Awards– She was featured in the BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world.
  • Inspired from her work, “Women Life Freedom” was adopted as motto by the demonstrators for their struggle.
  • Awards received by her include
    • 2023 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize
    • 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award

Some of the previous Nobel Peace laureates include Mother Teresa, Kailash Satyarthi, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, and the European Union.


Nobel Prize in Economics 2023

American economic historian Claudia Goldin won the 2023 Nobel Prize for economics, for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes.

  • Nobel Prize in Economics is also known as Sveriges Riksbank Prizein Economic Sciences.
Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences
Ø  In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Ø  While Alfred Nobel did not mention the economics prize in his will, the Sveriges Riksbank established the award in 1968.

Ø  The Prize is based on a donation received by the Nobel Foundation from Sveriges Riksbank in 1968.

Ø  The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was given the task of selecting the Laureates in Economic Sciences, starting in 1969.

Ø  The first Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen in 1969.

Ø  The Prize in Economic Sciences is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden, according to the same principles as for the Nobel Prizes that have been awarded since 1901.

This is only the 26th time when the economics prize has been awarded to a single laureate.

  • Contributions of Claudia Goldin – She gave the 1stcomprehensive account of women’s earnings and labour market participation through centuries.
  • Her research reveals the causes of change, as well as the main sources of the remaining gender gap.
  • Economic growth and Women’s participation– Historically, there is no consistent association between them.
  • U-shaped curve– The participation of married women decreased with the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society.
  • But it then increased with the growth of the service sector.
  • Expectations– Women’s expectations for their future careers is the reason for the slow reduction of employment gap and earning gap between man and women.
  • Parenthood effect– The bulk of earnings gap between men and women in the same occupation largely arises with the birth of the first child.

Claudia Goldin will be the 3rd women to be bestowed with the Economic nobel after Elinor Ostrom in 2009 and Esther Duflo in 2019 since it was instituted in 1969.

Claudia’s works

  • Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women (Oxford, 1990),
  • Career & Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity (Princeton University Press, 2021).