2015 Nobel Prizes honor achievements in particle physics, DNA research, disease treatment, consumer studies, historical writing, human rights

stockholmThe Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded this year’s Nobel Prizes in fields ranging from the ways livings cells repair DNA to research on the scientifically usable content of ancient Chinese medicine.

The physics prize has been shared by Takaaki Kajita, of the University of Tokyo, Japan, and Arthur B McDonald, of Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, for experiments that showing that the neutrino, an elusive and mysterious subatomic particle, has mass. This discovery has fundamentally fundamentally upset the prevailing theory of the universe which for over two decades had characterized the neutrino as massless.

The chemistry prize has gone to Tomas Lindahl of Britain’s Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory, in Hertfordshire, and two North Carolina scientists: Paul Modrich of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, and Aziz Sancar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for their discoveries of how organic cells repair and protect DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, which contains the genetic code that determines how organisms develop). Their work sheds new light on how cells work and has practical implications for research in various important areas, like cancer

The physiology / medicine prize has been shared by William C Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura (for work leading to the development of the drug ivermectin, which combats river blindness, elephantiasis and other parasitic diseases), and Youyou Tu (or Tu Youyou, in the Chinese rather than western style, Tu being a surname), whose research itno ancient Chinese herbal remedies yielded knowledge that helped developa an anti-malaria drug, artemisinin. Professor Ōmura is associated with Kitasato University, Japan, and Wesleyan University, Connecticut, and Dr Campbell with Drew University, New Jersey. Professor Tu works under the auspices of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing.

The economics prize has gone to Professor Angus Deaton, of Princeton University, New Jersey, for his research on how the saving and spending choices of individuals affect their society’s economy and relate to the incidence of poverty. The literature prize has been awarded to Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich for her body work using interviews and monologues to document the emotional impacts of historic events. The peace prize was conferred on the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a group promoting civil rights and democratic institutions.

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