The Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry were awarded this week to scientists for groundbreaking climate research, complex systems and a novel catalyst.
Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University, 90; Klaus Hasselmann, professor emeritus at the University of Hamburg, 89; and Giorgio Parisi, 73, of the Sapienza University in Rome, shared the prize for physics and a win of 10 million Swedish kronor (£ 836,000, $ 1.16 million).
This year’s award is divided into two parts, with Manabe and Hasselman being honored on the one hand for developing models of the earth’s climate and on the other hand by Parisi for his work on complex systems. Manabe and Hasselman were already known for predicting global warming from rising carbon dioxide levels.
Manabe is a meteorologist and climatologist who pioneered the use of computer simulations to study climate change, while Hasselman is an oceanographer at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. “When I got the call this morning, I was so surprised,” said Manabe on Tuesday.
“Usually the Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to physicists who have made a fundamental contribution to physics. Yes, my work is based on physics, but it’s applied physics. Geophysics. This is the first time that the Nobel Prize has been awarded for my work: research into climate change. “
Parisi has an excellent career in theoretical physics and has won numerous internationally recognized awards in areas from quantum field theory to statistical mechanics. He received his part of the Nobel Prize “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scale”.
“The discoveries recognized this year show that our knowledge of climate rests on a solid scientific foundation, based on a thorough analysis of the observations,” said Thors Hans Hansson, chairman of the Nobel Committee on Physics, in a statement. “This year’s award winners have all contributed to our gaining deeper insights into the properties and development of complex physical systems.”
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Benjamin List and David MacMillan, both 53 and pioneers in organocatalysis, in which organic compounds are synthesized to accelerate chemical reactions. Scientists used to think there were only two types of catalysts: metals and enzymes.
Enzymes regulate chemical processes in our body. Artificial catalysts, on the other hand, have to be carefully designed and manufactured in a laboratory. List and MacMillan showed that there is a third type of catalyst: asymmetric organocatalysis. These molecules are made up of a number of carbon atoms and often contain elements of oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, or sulfur.
Organocatalysts are more environmentally friendly than metal catalysts; They are biodegradable and are used to build materials from shampoo to carpet fiber. “I’m shocked and stunned and overjoyed,” said MacMillan, a Scotland-born researcher and academic at Princeton University.
List is a German scientist at the Max Planck Institute. The chemistry award also includes a reward of 10 million Swedish kronor shared by both men. ®