Nobel Prize in Chemistry honors DNA research that could lead to new cancer treatments

Professors Sara Snogerup Linse, Goran K. Hansson and Claes Gustafsson, members of the Nobel Assembly, reveal the 2015 winners at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm.  [Reuters]

Three scientists won the world's top science prize today, for their "mechanistic studies of DNA repair." Their work mapped how cells repair deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to prevent damaging errors from appearing in genetic information.

Tomas Lindahl, Paul L. Modrich and Aziz Sancar today received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “having mapped and explained how the cell repairs its DNA and safeguards its genetic information,” the New York Times reports.

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The first integrated circuit

NOVA's Tim De Chant posted this awesome photo of the Kilby Solid Circuit, the first working example of a miniaturized electric circuit that combined all the necessary structures onto a single chip. Back in 2000, when he won the Nobel Prize for this achievement, inventor Jack Kilby gave a really nice talk about the history of electronics and the context that lead to his creation. It's definitely worth a read. Read the rest

Dark energy: No, seriously, what the heck is it?

The fun thing about the Nobel Prize in Physics is watching pundits try to explain to the public the research that won. It doesn't always go well. Physics is not, shall we say, the public's best subject. (And I include myself in that "public".) Beyond that, words that describe legitimate concepts in physics have taken on new, more fantastical meanings in science fiction, which only serves to confuse people further.

That's why I like this video produced by KQED Science. It features Lawrence Berkeley Lab astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, one of the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in Physics, and does a nice job of explaining what "dark energy" really is, why work with dark energy is worthy of a Nobel, and what Perlmutter and his colleagues have contributed to the expansion of human knowledge.

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How do you want to be remembered?

I know we're all thinking of a different death today, but I'd like to go back for just a moment to Ralph Steinman. Steinman is the man Xeni told you about earlier this week, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine but died (of pancreatic cancer*) before the award could be made public.

Only living people can win a Nobel Prize. That rule is why neither Gandhi, nor Rosalind Franklin, is a Nobel award winner. But Steinman is going to be the exception. Technically, he won the Nobel before his untimely death, and the Committee has decided that he gets to keep it. So Ralph Steinman will be the first person to receive a Nobel Prize posthumously. (EDIT: I got this wrong, as a couple of commenters have pointed out. Rules are that you must be alive when decision is announced, but can die between then and the ceremony and still get the award. That's happened to several people. What's different with Steinman is that he was dead before the announcement, but because he died so suddenly the Nobel Committee didn't realize it until after they'd proclaimed him a winner. So Steinman is getting in under what commenter Warren_Terra calls a Schrodinger's cat clause: The Nobel Committee has decided that Steinman wasn't dead until somebody checked.)

Now, Gandhi and Franklin are the famous examples, but death has knocked a lot of people out of the Nobel running over the years. My friend David Isenberg grew up with the children of Stephen Kuffler, a neuroscientist who probably would have won, along with his colleagues, the 1981 Nobel for medicine, had he not died in 1980. Read the rest

Great science lecture series in Minnesota

If you live anywhere near St. Peter, Minnesota, I highly recommend taking tomorrow and Wednesday off from work to attend the 47th Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College. Every year, the school brings in eminent scientists from around the country for a two-day public lecture series centered around a theme. This year, it's "The Brain and Being Human." Presentations will cover everything from the merging of mind and machine, to therapies for autism and depression, to everyday applications of neuroscience in the real world. Read the rest