Since 1901, there have been 585 Nobel prizes awarded to some of the most intelligent and influential individuals that have walked the earth. While the categories of their genius vary across the academic spectrum, one thing ties all of them together – no one outside of their field knows who they are, or what the hell they did.
This is not the fault of the average person. To misquote Tyler Durden; “Physics, Chemistry, Literature: these things do not concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, who is the real G.O.A.T, and where can I find more of Marshawn Lynch driving a race car.
However, there is something to be said for acknowledging the achievements of individuals that shape their field of study, and consequently help create the world we walk through and share as our snap stories.
Take the following examples:
- Marie Curie (Physics, 1903 and Chemistry, 1911)
- Helped discover radioactivity
- Robert Koch (Physiology or Medicine, 1905)
- Basically set the stage for curing tuberculosis.
- Enrico Fermi (Physics 1938)
- Known as the father of nuclear power.
- Ernest Hemingway (Literature, 1954)
- Wrote a bunch of books we probably can’t name, but know are important.
- Albert Einstein (Physics 1921)
- Did that whole E=MC2 thing. I’m sure everyone understands the math, so I’ll just glide over it.
In October of 2017, prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Economic Science and Peace were awarded to 11 individuals and 1 international organization.
So, lets all take a short break. Skim through this list and give a small nod of appreciation to the people that help keep the world a smarter and safer place.
Winners: Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss and Barry Barish
Why: Discovering gravitational waves
What are those?
Think about it like this. You throw a rock in a pond and see ripples. Whelp, try to imagine a similar concept happening in the universe. Two neutron stars collided into each other. The impact vibrated space time and sent ripples (i.e. gravitational waves). I know, I know, sounds a bit confusing. If you’re interested in understanding it better, watch someone much smarter than me explain it to Stephen Colbert.
Winners: Richard Henderson, Joachim Frank, and Jacques Dubochet
Why: Innovated on the Cryo-electron microscopy technique.
…. What’s that?
This is a technique that helps Chemists see really, really, really small stuff in a detailed way. We’ve all heard of biomolecules I’m sure…yes? Ok, we might not know what they are, but we’ve head of them. These three basically figured out a new technique to view the structures in HD. This will help scientists develop and improve on drugs that will have an incredible impact on society. Specifically combating the Zika virus and Alzheimer’s disease.
Winner: Kazuo Ishiguro
Why: Wrote some intense books
The Remains of the Day, Never let me Go, and The Buried Giant, to name a few. While literature requires us to do a lot of soul searching and overall critical thinking to see its intended purpose, Kazuo Ishiguro makes this an easy task. According to the Nobel committee, this is an author “…who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”. I couldn’t have said that better myself.
Physiology or Medicine:
Winners: Michael Rosbash, Jeffery C. Hall, and Michael Young
Why: Their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.
Honestly…this one is a bit over my head. Circadian rhythm is basically your internal body clock. The two Michaels and Jeffery identified the molecular mechanisms that control this clock. This helps us understand why some people are night owls and others are the elusive morning people.
Winner: Richard Thaler
Why: “Contributions to behavioral economics”
Aside from helping us understand how big banks royally F**ked us in the movie “The Big Short”, Richard Thaler helped economists understand that humans don’t generally make rational/logical decisions. I think we’ve all known that for some time; but Richard had the proof.
Winners: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Why: Take a guess.