Nobel Prize in Medicine Explained

So the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for 2012 has been announced, but what have the deserving winners done anyway? Here’s a look at the defining achievements that have cemented their place in history.

What’s the Big Deal With Stem Cells?

Sir John Gurdon from Cambridge and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto University have won the prize for their work on induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS), and every biologist has greeted this news with a cheer. Every cell in our body is specialized to perform its own task; that’s why your food goes into your stomach and air into your lungs. However, every cell in our body arises from one single cell. How does this division of labor occur? At some stage of development in the womb, cells undergo a process called ‘differentiation’, which is what tells the cells what functions they will be restricted to performing. What we call ‘stem cells’ are essentially undifferentiated cells, which are enormously powerful simply because they can turn into any type of tissue we want!

Sir John B Gurdon, who first proved that differentiation could be reversed. [Image Credit:]

This differentiation was thought to be one-directional. In 1962, Sir John Gurdon showed that the reverse of the ‘differentiation’ process could be achieved. Cells from a tissue like the skin could be reversed to form ‘stem cells’ that could in turn turn into any type of tissue. He took out the nucleus of an adult frog and injected it into an egg cell of a tadpole (from which the DNA-containing nucleus had been removed). This embryo then grew into a live tadpole, showing that ‘adult DNA’ really could become ‘immature’ again.

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka converted skin cells from mice into embryos that could grow into adult mice. [Image Credit: nobelprizeorg]
Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, in 2006, concocted an actual recipe for this reverse differentiation, and produced IPS cells from the skin cells of mice in this seminal paper. He identified 4 genes that could convert these skin cells into immature yet all-powerful stem cells.

These cells have huge potential in both medicine and research. Brain cells, for example, are notoriously difficult to isolate. Thanks to their discovery, we can produce IPS cells and culture brain cells instead of having to isolate them. While the direct applications to medicine are not yet on the horizon, this technology does hold promises for the future.


List of Nobel Prize Winners 2012 [Live Webcast Link Included]

The Nobel Prize announcement week is upon us!

The Nobel Prize for Medicine, Physics and Chemistry are out. The list of winners follows.

The Nobel Prize celebrates the pinnacle of human thought and intellect. The prize money is approximately $1.2 million and there is also a medal and a certificate following that. The first prize is given for Medicine, followed by that for Physics, Chemistry, Economics and Peace. The Literature Prize will be announced later.



The winners of the Medicine Nobel Prize are Sir John B. Gurdon of the Gurdon Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom, and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, and their citation says that they got it for “the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent”. Each shares half the prize.

The Medicine Nobel Explained for the Layman:


The winners of the Physics Nobel Prize are Sergie Haroch and David J. Wineland and their citation says that they got it for demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them.
They share the prize equally.


The winners of the Chemistry Nobel Prize are Robert J. Lefkowitz from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA and Brian K. Kobilka from Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA and their citation says that they got it for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors.
They share the prize equally.


Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. His citation reads that it was he “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”

You can see the live webcast here:

or at the main site.

We will update this post with the daily winners. So stay tuned

Get the Webcast Link for the Nobel Prize Announcements!

The winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize will be announced starting from today. The first Nobel winner to be announced will be in the field of medicine. We will be bringing you the winners as they are announced. The Nobel Prize winner for Physics will be announced tomorrow and there is considerable interest about that.


You can watch the live webcast here:

The Nobel prize site is:

The Swedish Nobel Committee will be awarding exceptional work done in the fields of medicine/physiology, physics, chemistry and literature. Two other Nobel Prizes include economics and peace. Medicine, physics and chemistry will be followed by peace and economics, while the prize for literature will be announced later as usual.

Stay with us for the real time coverage. We will also try and have follow-up posts on the different fields for which the Nobel Prize was given out.
Let the celebration of human intellect begin…

Nobel Prize Money Slashed By Nobel Committee

The bear hug on worldwide markets is showing itself up in the unlikeliest of places – the Nobel Prize money. The Nobel Prize committee reduced the prize money from SEK 10 million to SEK 8 million, which translates to about USD 1.1 million at today’s exhange rate.

Safeguarding the Prize

This was done to safeguard future of the Nobel Prize, said the committee. Says Lars Heikenstein, Executive Director of the Nobel Foundation:

The reason behind this decision is that the financial markets are really unstable and there are reasons to suspect that this turbulence will continue for a while still

He continues with:

The Nobel Foundation is responsible for ensuring that the prize sum can be maintained at a high level in the long term. We have made the assessment that it is important to implement necessary measures in good time.

This is probably a good move, since over the last few years the average return on the Foundation’s capital has been barely enough to cover the prize money and the operating costs of the Committee. A review of the financial situation of the committee is on the cards.

The Nobel Sphere

The “Nobel sphere” comprises, besides the committee, a number of organisations such as the Nobel Museum, Nobel Media and the Nobel Peace Center. These fringe organisations help spread the message of the Nobel Prize and also contributes financially to the prize money. These organizations are financed externally or supported by government agencies.

Rest assured the prestige of the Nobel Prize hasn’t decreased a bit and won’t. Being a Nobel Winner will still guarantee a place in history no matter how rich you get in the process.

Nobel Foundation Official News:

How The Nobel Prize Medal Is Made

The most prestigious prizes in the world of Science and Literature are to be given out on 10th of December and the program line-up starts from tomorrow, the 7th. You can check the complete list of winners here, including their Nobel Prize citations. There’s a live webcast link thrown in as well. We’ll give a short program line-up towards the end of this post, but before that we want to tell you how a Nobel Prize Medal is made, just so that you can make your own, if you wanted to!

The procedure to make the medals is documented at the Swedish Mint or Myntverket. They have made all the medals given out since 1901. Here’s a step-by-step rundown.

Step 1: Getting the Gold!

High purity gold is melted and rolled into sheets. The sheets are then flattened to proper thickness, which will become the thickness of the Nobel Prize medal. They are then cut into proper sizes.

The golden sheets are rolled out.

The medals of proper sizes are then punched through. What we have now is a circular piece of highly pure gold of precise thickness and radius. Now for the heat treatment!

Step 2: Hot Foot And Cold Shower

The medal is now imprinted with the face of Nobel on one side. On the other side, is engraved the goddess Isis, who represents Nature. She is emerging from the clouds and the veil from her head is being slightly removed by the Genius of Science. The face of the Goddess is cold and austere and she holds a cornucopia in her hand.

The front and back of the Nobel for the Sciences and Literature. This particular one belonged to Linus Pauling.

This brilliant metaphorical image is underlined by the name of the recipient of the Nobel Prize. Below that is written REG. ACAD. SCIENT. SUEC.standing for The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. On the circumference is the inscription Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes, which loosely translates to And they who bettered life on earth by their newly found mastery. This inscription is present on the Nobel Prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine and Literature. The design was conceived of by Erik Lindberg.

The Peace Nobel prize

The Peace Nobel bears instead the inscription Pro pace et fraternitate gentium, which translates to For the peace and brotherhood of men. This design was conceived of by Gustav Vigeland.

The engraving of the name of the recipient is done later. After this heat treatment, the medal is cooled off underwater.

Step 3: Making it shine brighter

The medal is polished so that any dirt or metal oxides might be removed from the surface of the medal. This is a process done by hand and the polishing should be delicate enough to just remove the unwanted surface impurities, not damage the medal itself.

Polishing the medal

At each step the medal is constantly checked for any abrasions. The weight of the gold in the medal at this point is a precise 175 g and this is checked.

Step 4: Engraved for Eternity

Now, the crucial step of engraving the name of the recipient is undertaken. This is done by hand. At the end of the engraving session, the medal is polished slightly and checked for scratches again. It is then approved.

Alfred Nobel approves.

The grizzled Nobel, staring out from a large coin of gold, now honours another momentous human achievement.

The Nobel Prize Medal is ready!  

Line-up for the Ceremony

Now, for the promised line-up of the program leading up to the Nobel Prize ceremony on the 10th of December:

7th December: Nobel Lectures in Physiology/Medicine and Literature. Starts at 1:00 PM CET (7:00 AM EST). The first one is at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, while the latter at Swedish Academy.

8th December: Nobel Lectures in Physics, Chemistry and Economic Sciences. Starts at 9:00 AM CET (3:00 AM CET).

9th December: Nothing

10th December: Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony at Oslo City Hall, at 1:00 PM CET (7:00 PM EST).  Nobel Prize Ceremony starts at Stockholm Concert Hall, at 4:30 PM CET (10:30 AM EST).

Here’s the live video player (reused from site)

Nobel Prize Official site:

Physics Nobel Prize, 2011, Awarded To Cosmology Team For Observing Acceleration of Universe Expansion

The Physics Nobel goes to Cosmology Team for their observation of the accelerating expansion of the Universe. This led to the hypothesis of Dark Energy. Names of winners follow.

Physics Nobel is the most prestigious Nobel, feel many, especially since Alfred Nobel himself mentioned it first in his will. The fascination with Physics Nobel winners of the last century is understandable, given the huge names, which would’ve still been big without the Nobel. For 2011, the forerunners of the Nobel seem to be Alain Aspect (famous for his Aspect Experiment on the EPR effect), John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger.

Quantum Physics has been the dominant buzz word surrounding this year’s prize. The other contenders include Yakir Aharanov (one half of the Aharanov-Bohm effect duo) and Micheal Berry (of Berry Phase fame). The dark horse in the race has been the neutrino team. The Nobel might go to experimental team looking to verify and measure neutrino oscillations. Arnold McDonald at SNOlab along with two Japanese physicists from the Super Kamiokande experiment.

And the Winner Is …

The 2011  Physics Nobel Prize goes to Saul Perlmutter (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC Berkeley), Prof. Brian Schmidt (High Z Supernova search team, Australian National University, Weston Creek, Australia) and Prof. Adam Reiss (High Z Supernova search team, Australian National University, Weston Creek, Australia). While Permutter got half the Prize, the other half went jointly to Schmidt and Reiss.  The citation reads “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae”.

The Universe was supposed to slow down according the General Theory of Relativity. The observation by Schmidt and Reiss confirmed that the Universe is not only expanding, but also accelerating.

A webcast from the Nobel Committee in Sweden is to follow. Here’s the webcast link:

The Chemistry Nobel Prize winner will be announced tomorrow. The prizes will be given out on the 10th of December.
Below is a small animation explaining the 2011 Physics Nobel with narration by Sean Carroll, Caltech Physicist. Enjoy

Mad Scientists and Spoof Nobel Prize: Beetle Mating, Yawning Turtles And End-Of-World Claim Get Ig Nobel, 2011

The best and funniest of science will be awarded this month. As should be the rule, humour must precede seriousness and following that we have the Ig Nobel being given out before the Nobel Prizes. The Ig Nobel prize, a spoof of the Nobel Prize and given out yearly by Harvard University, honors the craziest of science ideas, which were taken a little too seriously by people. Though the world of physics was never revolutionized by the contribution of the Ig Nobel Prize winners (that is, if you don’t consider getting vanilla from cow dung revolutionary), there’re always some great laughs. This year’s Ig Nobel prizes went to ideas as diverse as Beetle Sex with a beer bottle and Yawning Turtles.

Not Quite Nobel...

Procedure and Protocols – or some semblance thereof

The aim of the Ig Nobel is to make people laugh and then make them think. The prize is handed over by real Nobel Prize Winners! The recipient is given exactly 60 seconds to make his/her acceptance speech. If that limit is exceeded, a little girl gets up and says that she’s bored. Try continuing after that! Yes, this is all in good humor.

The Winners! (Or Losers!)

The categories are the same as the Nobel Prize physics, chemistry, medicine and peace. The winner of this year’s Biology prize, Daryll Gwynne, researched how beetles would try to mate with a beer bottle confusing it for a large female. As Gwynne says:

It’s a great example of an evolutionary trap. They seek the biggest, browniest female they could find, but then these beetles wouldn’t leave the bottles and would eventually drop to one side and be preyed upon by ants.

He changed the shape of the bottle, but the beetles did the same thing. Yes, at Harvard, even fun is taken seriously.

The Medicine Ig Nobel was given for demonstrating that people can better control their emotions when they have a strong urge to urinate! Yes, I know what you’re thinking why did you never think of that?

The prize for Physiology went to a whole pan-continental team! A British-Dutch-Hungarian-Austrian team established that there is no contagious yawning behavior in red-footed turtles! That does provide a nice point to add to the list: How humans and tortoises are different, right?

The Chemistry prize went to a team of Japanese scientists for creating a fire alarm that gives off the pungent smell of Wasabi, a Japanese culinary mix renowned for its nose-clearing properties. The aim is to alert people who are blind or deaf, of if they are sleeping with earplugs on.

Japanese scientists are all smiles as their pungent creation gets the Ig Nobel

The Physics Ig Nobel went to a group for explaining why discus throwers get dizzy, while hammer throwers don’t!

The best laugh comes from the Math Ig Nobel! Six people were awarded the prize for predicting that the world will end for a number of years and still living to receive the prize. Their prize citation bore out their priceless contribution – for teaching the world to be careful while making mathematical assumptions. Yes, and they’ll receive the award, in full blood!

The Ig Nobel Prize Giving Ceremony is here:


Just For Laughs

The Ig Nobels should be more popular than the Nobels themselves. After all, how can you ignore the prize honoring people for magnetically levitating a frog (Andre Geim, 2001) and for finding the optimal way to dunk a biscuit (Len Fisher, 1999). This just goes to show that in addition to being accurate and awe-inspiring, science can be rip-roaringly funny!