Nobel prize winners 2020: Black holes, DNA tools, and the discovery of a virus.

by James Neil

Statue of Alfred Nobel | Image coutersy of ©Nobel Media, A.B. Photo: A.Mahmoud

Since 1901 the Nobel Prizes have been awarded every year, founded posthumously by the Swedish Scientist and Philanthropist, Alfred Nobel. Nobel allegedly came up with the idea after a French Newspaper misreported his death crediting him ‘the merchant of death’, for his creation of Dynamite leading to him questioning his legacy.

Despite current global circumstances, the Nobel prize winners were announced at the beginning of October.

Physics saw the prize get split between two discoveries. Dr. Roger Penrose from the University of Oxford won half of the prize, for his work, proving that Black Holes are a direct result of General relativity. Penrose first proved the existence of the Black Hole in 1965. this discovery has led him to make great contributions to the field of General relativity, a theory a fellow Nobel prize winner pioneered, resulting in prizewinning work,

The other half went to Dr. Andrea Ghez and Dr. Reinhard Genzel for their work demonstrating at the centre of our galaxy in the Sagittarius A* region of space there was a supermassive object pulling in all around it. Their work also led to developments in techniques that allow us to see through dust clouds, which is critical when trying to observe the centre of our galaxy.

The Nobel prize for Chemistry was awarded to Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Dr.Jennifer A. Doudna, for their work in Genome editing. Their work involved the development of the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. This tool not only allows us to further explore the DNA build-up of animals, plants, and micro-organisms but also enables us to alter their genetic makeup. This can be used for the creation of crops that can survive harsh conditions, for example, drought. a danger that has become more prevalent in parts of the world due to climate change. It also has applications in the medical field as it has unlocked new ways to treat cancer, something which is currently undergoing trials and potentially could even lead the way to a method for treating inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis.

In the fields of Medicine and Physiology, the Nobel Prize was presented to Dr. Harvey J. Alter, Dr. Michael Houghton, and Dr. Charles M. Rice. Their discovery of the Hepatitis C Virus has led to huge developments in the fight against liver cancer and blood-borne Hepatitis cases. By identifying the virus, they have enabled scientists to develop test methods to help treat those infected. The disease is now curable, and many lives can be saved all thanks to the work of these scientists.

Other Nobel prizes went to Louise Glück for Literature, The World Food Program (WFP) was awarded the Nobel Peace prize and for economic Sciences, the prize went to Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson.