2009 Nobel Prize winners
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• Monday, October 5, 2008 PHYSIOLOGY or MEDICINE
Elizabeth H. Blaxkburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak "for the discovery of how
chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase”
• Tuesday, October 6, 2008 PHYSICS
Charles K. Kao
"for ground breaking achievments concerning the transmission of light in the ﬁbers for optical
William S. Boyle and George E. Smith for the inventon of an imaging semiconductor
circuiy - the CCD sensor”
• Wednesday, October 7, 2008 CHEMISTRY
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas Steitz and Ada E. Yonath for the studies of the
structure and function of the ribosome”
• Monday, October 13, 2008 ECONOMICS
Elinor Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson for the analysis of economic governance”.
• Thursday, October 9, 2008 LITERATURE
Herta Müller ‘with concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscae of
• Friday, October 12, 2008 PEACE
Barack H. Obama “for his extraordinary efforts, to strengthen international diplomacy and
cooperation between people”
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PHYSIOLOGY or MEDICINE
Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak
for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected
by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase
Elizabeth H. Blackburn, 61 Carol W. Greider, 48 Jack W. Szostak, 57
University of California, Johns Hopkins University Harvard Medical School, MGH
San Francisco, CA Baltimore, MD Boston, MA
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Tolemeres key to aging and cancer?
Inside the center or nucleus of a cell,
genes are located on twisted, double-
stranded molecules of DNA called
At the ends of the chromosomes are
stretches of DNA called telomeres,
which protect our genetic data, make it
possible for cells to divide and hold
some secrets to how we age and get
Telomeres have been compared with
the plastic tips on shoelaces because
they prevent chromosome ends from
fraying and sticking to each other,
which would scramble an organism's
genetic information to cause cancer,
other diseases or death.
Yet, each time a cell divides, the
telomeres get shorter. When they get
too short, the cell no longer can divide
and becomes inactive or senescent
or dies. This process is associated
with aging, cancer and a higher risk of
death. So telomeres also have been
compared with a bomb fuse.
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What are tolemers?
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Venki Ramakrishnan, Tom Steitz, Ada Yonath
for studies of the structure and function of the
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan 57, Thomas A. Steitz 69, Ada E. Yonath, 70,
MRC Lab of Molecular Biology Yale University, Weizmann Inst. Science
Cambridge, UK New Haven, CT Rehovot, Israel
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Ribosome translates genetic code into proteins
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Two subunits of Ribosome
They are built of two subunits that associate upon initiation of protein synthesis. Typical eubacterial ribosomes (70S)
consist of 57 different molecules (3 rRNAs and 54 proteins) and can dissociate into a small (30S) and a large subunit
(50S). The small subunit is responsible for the formation of the initiation complex, performs the decoding of the genetic
information, and controls the fidelity of codon-anticodon interactions. The large subunit catalyzes the peptide bond
formation and provides the path for the nascent polypeptide chain.
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Ribosome is a complex machinary
The large subunit is in blue and the small subunit is yellow. The newly
synthesized peptide (green) is pushed through the canal.
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Antibiotics Block Translation
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Chemistry Nobel Videos
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Charles Kao, Willard Boyle and George Smith
- for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in
fibers for optical communication”
- for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor
Charles K. Kao, 76 Willard S. Boyle, 85 George E. Smith, 79
Standard Telecomm Labs Bell Laboratories, Bell Laboratories,
Harlow, UK Murray Hills, NJ Murray Hills, NJ
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Kao’s fiber optics
In 1965, Kao concluded that the fundamental limitation for glass light attenuation is below 20 dB/km, which is a key
threshold value for optical communications.
At the time, optical fibers commonly exhibited light loss as high as 1,000 db/km and more.
With precise measurements of the attenuation of light with different wavelengths in glasses and other materials, Kao
pointed out that the high purity of fused silica (SiO2) made it an ideal candidate for optical communication.
Kao also stated that the impurity of glass material is the main cause for the dramatic decay of light transmission inside
glass fiber, rather than fundamental physical effects such as scattering as many physicists thought at that time, and such
impurity could be removed. This led to a worldwide study and production of high-purity glass fibers.
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CCDs: modern digital photography
In 1969 Willard S. Boyle
and George E. Smith
invented the first
technology using a digital
sensor, a CCD (Charge-
Coupled Device). The CCD
technology makes use of
the photoelectric effect
(Albert Einstein). By this
effect, light is transformed
into electric signals. The
challenge when designing
an image sensor was to
gather and read out the
signals in a large number
of image points, pixels, in a
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Breakthroughs of the Year 2009
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2009 Science Breakthroughs
10. First X-ray Laser Shines. In April, a new type of light flashed into existence. Physicists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in
Menlo Park, California, turned on the world's first x-ray laser, a 130-meter beast called the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS)
that is powered by the lab's 3-kilometer, straight-shot particle accelerator.
9. Hubble Reborn. It was an aging workhorse that almost got put out to pasture. But this fall, the Hubble Space Telescope began
snapping the best images of its 19-year career, thanks to a successful servicing mission in May that has extended the
instrument's life by another 5 years.
8. Graphene Takes Off. Since 2004, when researchers discovered a simple way to peel the single-atom-thick sheets of carbon atoms
off chunks of graphite, researchers have scrambled to study this ultimate membrane. This year they took it to a new level, with a
string of discoveries that include new fundamental insights and ways to make large graphene sheets and turn them into novel
7. Gene Therapy Returns. Since the first human study of gene therapy began in 1990, the field has struggled with technical challenges
and setbacks such as the death of a volunteer in a trial. But this year, gene therapy turned a corner, as researchers reported
success in treating several devastating diseases:
6. An Icy Moon Revealed. Planetary scientists finally proved this year that a barren, often boiling-hot body like the moon can harbor
water ice. The finding renewed prospects for reading an eons-long environmental record and for literally fueling the exploration of
the solar system.
5. Live Long and Prosper. It's not Ponce de León's vision of the fountain of youth: the secretion of a dirt-dwelling bacterium from Easter
Island. But this year researchers showed that the compound, called rapamycin, boosts longevity in mice, the first time any drug
has stretched a mammal's life span.
4. Mock Monopoles Spotted. Physicists' pursuit of a long-sought particle called a magnetic monopole created ripples, or
quasiparticles, inside magnetic crystals that act like monopoles.
3. ABA Receptors. Although Fight or Flight is not in their behavioral repertoire, plants have their equivalent of an adrenaline rush: a
chemical called abscisic acid (ABA). High concentrations of ABA keep seeds dormant and help curtail water loss and inhibit root
and other vegetative growth when times are tough.
2. Opening Up the Gamma Ray Sky. The advance, part of a torrent of recent gamma ray observations, is giving researchers an
improved understanding of how pulsars work, along with a rich haul of new pulsars that could help in the quest to detect
1. Breakthrough of the Year: Ardipithecus ramidus. Fifteen years after its discovery, Ardipithecus ramidus, the oldest known skeleton of
a putative human ancestor, was finally unveiled in 11 papers in print and online in October. The discoverers of the 4.4-million-
year-old fossil proposed that she was a new kind of hominin, the family that includes humans and our ancestors but not the
ancestors of other living apes.
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The pulsars created by neutron stars that
are many thousand light-years distant
(about 1021 meter )…
the production of a new single-atom-thick
material such as graphene (about 10-9
Thus, the two breakthroughs of the year
represent a difference of 1030 in scale ..
--- a breathtaking illustration of the
tremendous reach of science.
Bruce Alberts is Editor-in-Chief of Science
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10. First X-ray Laser Shines
a new type of light ﬂashed into existence
• In April, physicists at SLAC National
Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park,
California, turned on the world's first x-ray
laser, a 130-meter beast called the Linac
Coherent Light Source (LCLS) that is
powered by the lab's 3-kilometer, straight-
shot particle accelerator.
• The machine is the heart of a $420 million
user facility, and after 3 years of
construction, researchers needed less than
2 hours to fire it up.
• For decades, scientists have used x-rays to
probe the atomic-scale structure of
materials. Shining a billion times brighter
than any previous source, the LCLS
produces pulses of x-rays as brief as 2
Electrons zipping through the LCLS's
millionths of a nanosecond, short enough to
magnets (above) generate copious x-
snap stop-action images of chemical
reactions in progress.
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9. Hubble Reborn
an aging workhorse began snapping the best images
of its 19-year career
• In May, a seven-member crew on board
the shuttle Atlantis traveled 500 kilometers
above Earth, making five spacewalks over
11 days to carry out a set of complex and
• Replaced the Wide Field Camera 2 with the
new (10X) Wide Field Camera 3; installed
the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph to take
ultraviolet spectra; and making fixes to the
Advanced Camera for Surveys and the
Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.
• In September, NASA released the results
of the effort: spectacular images of the
Butterfly Nebula, the Omega Centauri
globular cluster, and other stellar wonders.
• In recent months, the instrument has
delivered the most detailed pictures yet of
the nearby spiral galaxy, M83, which
should help researchers learn more about
star birth in its core.
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8. Graphene takes off
progress in materials science
• Grapheneʼs near-perfect atomic order -a
chicken wire-like lattice of carbon atoms
to ﬂow through it at ultrafast speeds.
• In 2004, scientists discovered a simple
way to peel the single-atom-thick sheets
of carbon atoms off chunks of graphite.
• Grapheneʼs electors exhibit the
fractional quantum Hall Effect - electrons
act collectively as if they are particles
with only a fraction of the charge of an
• Scientists reported graphene ﬁlms upto
a sq. cm on thin copper ﬁlms (also on
silicon wafers) opening the door for
making graphene based electronic
devices such as faster transistors,
frequency multipliers for electronic
signals, molecular scales and photo-
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7. Gene Therapy Returns
success in treating several devastating diseases
• Gene therapy—repairing malfunctioning cells by mending their
DNA—offers an elegant solution to diseases caused by a single
flawed gene. The first human studies began in 1990 but without
any success. This year, several successful trials are reported:
• Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare form of inherited
blindness that strikes in infancy. Researchers injected one eye
of LCA patients with a harmless virus carrying a gene coding for
an enzyme needed to make a light-sensing pigment. The light
sensitivity of all 12 partially blind patients improved.
• X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (ADL), a brain disorder that
usually kills boys before they're teenagers. The disease involves
a flaw in a gene that makes a protein that helps maintain the
myelin sheath around nerves. A French team inserted a
corrective gene into the blood cells of two 7-year-old boys with
ADL. Two years later, the progressive brain damage has
• Bubble boy disease: severe combined immunodeficiency
(SCID) due to a lack of an enzyme called adenosine deaminase.
Eight of 10 patients no longer need enzyme-replacement
therapy and are living normal lives, 8 years after the therapy
• Gene therapy for a related disease, X-linked SCID, restored the
immune systems of 19 infants but caused leukemia in five of
them, one of whom died.
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6. An Icy Moon Revealed
Moon can harbor water ice
• Slamming a 2-ton spent rocket stage into a
permanently dark, frigid crater called Cabeus
at 7200 kilometers per hour coaxed a few
liters of water into sight.
• The $80-million Lunar Crater Observation and
Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission returned
clear spectroscopic signatures of water vapor,
ice, and water-derived hydroxyl in the impact
• Icy stores of lunar water might hold records of
lunar impacts over billions of years.
Astronauts might drink the water, grow food
with it, or even split its molecules into
hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.
• One problem: Someone would have to figure The LCROSS spacecraft (foreground)
out how to conduct coring and mining glimpsed water thrown up when the
operations on the moon at just 40° above spent rocket (background) hit the moon
absolute zero (-419 °F) .
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5. Live Longer and Prosper
Rapamycin boosts longevity in mice,
the ﬁrst time any drug has stretched a mammal’s life
• Rapamycin is prescribed to ﬁght kidney
cancer or to stymie rejection of
• Feeding rapamycin to mice when they
were 600 days old (comparable to 60-
year-old people) increased the mice’s life
span by 9-14%.
• This is a puzzling result.
• It might or might not be working the
same way as the Calorie Restriction..
• Rapamycin undermines the immune
system and is not likely to be a practical
Longevity soared as much as 14%
in rodents fed the drug rapamycin.
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4. Mock Monopoles Spotted
“If I can’t find a reindeer, I will make one .. ”
In 1931, Paul Dirac argued for the existence of
a particle with only one pole to explain
quantization of electric charge. Monopoles are
also predicted by “grand uniﬁed theories” that
treat the electromagnetic, the weak and the
strong forces as different aspects of one thing.
The monopoles reported in September exist only in
materials such as holmium titanate and dysprosium
titanate, which are known as spin ices/glass.
Within them, the gyrating and magnetic holium or
dysprosium ions sit at the corners of four-sided
pyramids, or tetrahedra.
At low temperatures, two ions in each tetrahedron
point their north poles inward toward the
tetrahedron's center and two point their north poles
Flipping one ion then creates one imbalanced
tetrahedron with three ions pointing in and another In a spin glass, monopoles are tetrahedrons
tetrahedron with only one ion pointing in. Flip more with either one (blue ball) or three (red ball)
spins and the imbalances can shuffle about
independently, acting like monopoles. magnetic ions pointing inward.
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3. ABA receptors
Plant’s harmone that gives it “adrenaline rush”:
abcisic acid (ABA)
• High concentrations of ABA keep seeds dormant and
help curtail water loss and inhibit root and other
vegetative growth when times are tough.
• Receptors for ABA was identiﬁed in May 2009 as
PYR/PYL/PCAR proteins (after many years of research).
• Several have obtained crystal structures of ABA bound
to its receptor or ABA and the receptor interacting with
the PP2C phosphatases that must be shut down to allow
ABA to function.
• The structures show that PYR/PYL/RCAR proteins pair
off, making a gated pocket that ABA nestles into. ABA
changes the shape of the pair of molecules so that the
gate closes and creates a binding surface for a PP2C.
• The ABA receptor ﬁled ﬁnally has a “success”
Blue stain shows the whereabouts
of ABA receptor in a seedling.
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2. Opening up the gamma-ray sky
discovery of gamma-ray pulsars with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
Like a lighthouse blinking in the night, a
pulsar appears to flash periodically as it
spins in space, sweeping a double cone
of electromagnetic radiation across the
Fermi telescope's astounding capability
to scan the entire sky in less than 3
hours, with orders of magnitude better
sensitivity, superior angular resolution
and energy coverage, and time
coverage ranging from milliseconds to
It opened a new channel of
discovery—the highly energetic gamma
ray spectrum—to find pulsars that radio
observations could not detect.
The advance is giving researchers an
improved understanding of how pulsars
Pulsar CTA 1 is one of many discoveries by the work, and helping the quest to detect
Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (launched by
NASA in June 2008). Pulsars are fast-spinning neutron stars
with powerful magnetic fields
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1. Ardipithecus ramidus
A rare 4.4-million-year-old skeleton reveals the surprising body
plan and ecology of our earliest ancestors
This work changes the way we think about
early human evolution, and it represents the
culmination of 15 years of highly collaborative
Remarkably, 47 scientists of diverse expertise
from nine nations joined in a painstaking
analysis of the 150,000 specimens of fossilized
animals and plants.
Ardi may have moved upright on branches and on the ground,
a key step in the evolution of upright walking.
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Breakthrough of the year
By hand or by foot? Ardi's foot (right) has Ardi (left) joined Lucy as one of the rare
an opposable toe for grasping branches fossil hominin skeletons that shape our
understanding of human evolution.
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Charles Darwin Bicentenary 1809-2009
Darwin's conclusion of The Origin:
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its
several powers, having been originally breathed
into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this
planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed
law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless
forms most beautiful and most wonderful have
been, and are being, evolved.
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Charles Darwin’s voyage
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Virus of the year: H1N1
Since the first reports on 21st April 2009 of human infection by a novel
influenza A (H1N1) virus, genetically related to swine influenza
viruses, the infection has spread across the world.
I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from Phase
4 to Phase 5 [which means that a global outbreak is imminent]. … It really is
all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.
— Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Apr.29, 2009
While the precise impact of the fall resurgence of 2009-H1N1 influenza is
impossible to predict, a plausible scenario is that the epidemic could: produce
infection of 30-50% of the U.S. population this fall and winter, ... lead to as
many as 1.8 million U.S. hospital admissions during the epidemic, ... [and]
cause between 30,000 and 90,000 deaths in the United States.
— Report to the President on U.S. Preparations for the 2009-H1N1 Influenza, President's
Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Aug. 7, 2009
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Barack H. Obama shows his Nobel Peace Prize Medal and
Diploma at the Award Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, 10
December 2009. To his left stands Thorbjørn Jagland,
Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
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At the table of honour at the Nobel Banquet are: Nobel
Laureate in Chemistry Thomas A. Steitz, Crown Princess
Victoria and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Venkatraman
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