2016 Nobel Prizes

‘Tis the season for Nobel prizes. The 2016 Nobel Prizes were recently awarded. The Nobel Prize is an international award that is given every year to individuals who have made a discovery that significantly impacts mankind. The awards are given in the fields of Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Literature, and Peace. It is the highest honor an individual can receive in each of these fields.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Yoshinori Ohsumi (Japan) for his discovery of a process cells use to break down and recycle their content. The name of the process is autophagy. This is helping scientists better understand some diseases that people suffer from such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

The Nobel Prize in Physics went to David J. Thouless, F. Duncan Haldane, and J. Michael Kosterlitz (all born in the UK) for showing that matter can assume different and strange states. Their work has led researchers to look for new materials that might be used, for example, in electronics in the future.




The Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Jean-Pierre Sauvage (France), Sir J. Fraser Stoddart (UK/USA), and Bernard L. Feringa (the Netherlands) for their design and production of molecular machines. Their work has helped put together the world’s tiniest machines made out of molecules. In the future, these machines may be used for things such as delivering medicines inside our bodies or a new way of storing energy.

Bob Dylan (USA) won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Dylan is an American music legend. Many consider the lyrics of his songs as poetry, and many of his songs are thought-provoking. Dylan is 75 years old. One of his very famous songs is ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.


Oliver Hart (UK/USA) and Bengt Holmström (Finland) won the Nobel Prize for Economics for their work in helping us understand contracts. We are bound by contracts in our daily lives. When we buy a car and sign up for insurance, we are in a contract. When we get a new job, we sign a contract with the company. The work of the two winners has helped us with better designing contracts so they are good for all parties involved.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in trying to bring an end to a 52-year-old conflict in Colombia that has taken over 220,000 lives. The government of Colombia and the guerrilla organization called Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are working to try to figure out terms that would bring peace between them. (Guerrillas are groups of people who don’t get along with their country’s government, and fight their country’s army for a cause they feel strongly about.)

The Nobel Prizes were started by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish businessman, chemist, and inventor. Nobel was born in 1833 in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. He studied chemistry. He wanted to create an explosive that could be used to blast rock while doing construction work, and in 1867, he invented dynamite. That invention made him very rich. He died on December 10, 1896, and in his will, he left a chunk of his wealth to be used for rewarding people who do work to help mankind. This led to the creation of the Nobel Prizes in 1901. Here are 4 videos. One explains the Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry awards more. The second is Dylan’s ’Blowin’ in the Wind’. The third is about the FARC. The last is about Alfred Nobel.

Did you know?

A man is driving down a country road, when he spots a farmer standing in the middle of a huge field of grass. He pulls the car over to the side of the road and notices that the farmer is just standing there, doing nothing, looking at nothing. The man gets out of the car, walks all the way out to the farmer and asks him, “Excuse me, but what are you doing?”
The farmer replies, “I’m trying to win a Nobel Prize.”
“How?” asks the man, puzzled.
“Well, I heard they give the Nobel Prize to people who are out standing in their field.”

Did you know?

The Ig Nobel Prizes are given out each year in the United States for ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The aim of the prizes is to “honor achievements that make people laugh, and then think.” Here are some of the prizes awarded this year in September.

The Biology Prize was given “for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird” and for “creating prosthetic extensions of limbs that allowed the person to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.”

The Physics Prize was given for “discovering why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones.”

The Medicine Prize was given for “discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice versa).”

And there were more!

Image Credits: http://www.nobelprize.org for the golden medallion image and for the Nobel Prize Medicine image, Johan Jarnestad and The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the states of matter image, J. Jarnestad and The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the Nobel Prize Chemistry and Economics images, N. Elmehed. and Nobel Media 2016 for Santos and Dylan’s images, 

Sources: https://www.nobelprize.org, http://www.vox.com, http://www.improbable.com/ig

The next Secretary-General of the United Nations

António Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, was selected to be the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. Guterres has also served as the United Nations Refugees chief in the past. He will take office when the current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon steps down on December 31.


The United Nations (UN) is an international organization with a goal to promote peace and security around the globe, encourage nations to be friends, support human rights, and help countries with issues of poverty, hunger, disease, and education. The UN was founded in 1945 after the Second World War. Today, 193 countries are part of the UN. The Secretary-General is the head of the United Nations. Here is a video about the United Nations.


Image Credits: http://www.un.org for Guterres image and UN’s logo
Sources: Seeker Daily, http://www.un.org

Galaxy Note 7

The South Korean company Samsung Electronics will stop producing its smartphone called Galaxy Note 7. The reason is that some people have reported the devices overheating and catching fire. The company has asked consumers not to use the phone. Folks can return the phone for a refund or exchange. Galaxy Note 7 was Samsung’s new phone released in August this year. Here is a video with more about the story.


Image Credits: http://www.samsung.com for Galaxy Note 7’s image
Sources:http://www.samsung.com/us, BBC

King Bhumibol Adulyadej passes away

On October 13, Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away at the age of 88 due to health problems. He  was loved and respected by the Thai people.  He had ruled for 70 years, making him one of the world’s longest-serving monarchs. When he had become king in 1946, the population of Thailand was about 20 million. Today, it is about 70 million.

Bhumibol was born in Massachusetts, United States, as his parents were living there at the time. His older brother was the king before him. Bhumibol was known for his love for photography and music. He had also composed a bunch of songs. His son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to take over the throne. Here is a video about King Bhumibol.

Did you know?

The color yellow was associated with King Bhumibol, since he was born on a Monday, and the color associated with Mondays in Thailand is yellow.

Image Credits: http://www.thaigov.go.th for the image of King Bhumibol
Sources: http://www.worldometers.info, https://www.britannica.com, http://thailand.prd.go.th, http://www.todayonline.com, http://time.com

World Food Day 2016

October 16 was World Food Day, a day to spread awareness about the world’s hunger problems and to rethink the food production methods used globally. The World Food Day is celebrated annually and was started in 1979 by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). According to the FAO, there are over 800 million hungry people in the world, and yet over one-third of food produced worldwide is wasted or lost every year.  The message for World Food Day this year is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.”

Here is a video about World Food Day.

Image Credits: http://www.fao.org for the World Food Day image
Sources: http://www.fao.org

Hurricane Matthew causing havoc

A very powerful storm, Hurricane Matthew, struck a bunch of nations in the Caribbean Sea on October 4-6. It had wind speeds of 145 mph (230 kph). One of the nations the storm hit was Haiti, causing tremendous amounts of destruction. Homes have been leveled, many areas are flooded, some cell phone towers have been toppled over causing communication problems, power lines have been taken out, and the transportation system has been impacted.

It has been rough for many Haitians in recent times as they were still recovering from a powerful earthquake that struck the country about 6 years ago. Thousands of people were still living in tents, and some of their accommodations have been wiped out by Hurricane Matthew.




Haiti is on an island in the Caribbean. It shares the island with another country, the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of years ago, the island that Haiti is on was inhabited by the Taino Indians. Christopher Columbus (image), a famous explorer, landed there in 1492 and claimed the island for Spain. Most of the Taino Indians were either killed or died because of diseases brought by the Spanish. Almost 200 years later, the French got the western part of the island (today called Haiti). Many African slaves had been brought to Haiti to work. The African slaves rebelled and gained independence in 1804. Haiti became the world’s first post-colonial black-led nation.

Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall in the United States on October 6. Here is a video showing Hurricane Matthew and another video about hurricanes.

Did you know?

We are not sure exactly how Christopher Columbus looked. This is because there is no known portrait of Columbus that exists which was drawn or painted during his life.

Image Credits:  NASA/NOAA GOES Project for Hurricane Matthew’s image, Metropolitan Museum of Art for Columbus’ image, google.com for Haiti’s image, Cyclonebiskit for Hurricane Matthew’s path
Sources:www.loc.gov, nasa.gov, BBC

IMF adds renminbi

On October 1, China’s currency, the renminbi, was added to the International Monetary Fund’s basket of reserve currencies. Other currencies currently in the basket are the U.S. dollar, the British pound, the Japanese yen, and the Euro. The IMF considers these currencies to be stable. These currencies are often used for international trade and by the top exporters of the world. China is currently the world’s second largest economy (the largest being the United States).

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries. It is involved in getting nations to cooperate in money matters and international trade. The IMF works to make sure the system of exchange rates and international payments is stable. It also tries to help nations struggling with financial problems. It was created in 1945. Christine Lagarde is the current Managing Director of the IMF.


Image Credits: http://www.imf.org for the currencies image and Lagarde’s image
Sources: http://www.imf.org

Farewell Rosetta

The spacecraft Rosetta ended its mission on September 30 by setting a course to crash into the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Twelve years ago, the mothership Rosetta with its robot lander Philae were sent into space. After a 10-year journey, they arrived near the comet 67P. Rosetta (image) and Philae orbited the comet. Philae made the trip down to the comet’s surface in 2014. Meanwhile, Rosetta orbited the comet for over 2 years gathering images and information. Rosetta’s impact with the comet brings an end to Rosetta and Philae’s mission.

Rosetta was named after the Rosetta Stone (image), a stone from Ancient Egypt with part of a message written in three different scripts (hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek). The message on the Stone provided a key to figure out the hieroglyphic script.

The mission was named so because data collected by Rosetta is helping us unlock the mysteries of how comets and the Solar System formed.

Here are two videos about Rosetta (the spacecraft).

Image Credits: ESA/ATG medialab for Rosetta’s image, http://www.britishmuseum.org for Rosetta Stone’s image
Sources: http://www.esa.int, http://www.britishmuseum.org

OPEC agrees to cut oil output

OPEC recently announced that its members have agreed that they need to cut crude oil output. This is to try to increase the price of oil which has more than halved in the last couple of years.

Oil is bought and sold all around the world. Its price is determined by how much oil there is to sell (the supply) and the amount of oil people need (the demand). We humans are very dependent on crude oil – it drives our cars, lights up our homes, grows our food, and many many more things. In the last couple of years, the global demand for oil has fallen. Oil supply is still high but demand is lower, and hence, it’s cheaper.

OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is a group of 14 countries which together produce more than one-third of the world’s oil. These countries are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Before the 1960s, the oil industry was dominated by seven large oil companies (referred to as the “seven sisters”). Some of the oil producing countries that supplied the oil to these companies got together and founded OPEC in 1960. This was to get some control over the international oil market, and to ensure a regular and stable supply of oil.

Image Credits: http://www.opec.org for the logo and map
Sources: http://www.opec.org, Wall Street Journal

Reykjavik turns off lights

On September 28, Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland and the world’s most northerly capital, went dark at night by turning off streetlights. This was so the folks in the city could enjoy the spectacular show nature was putting up in their skies – the northern lights (aurora borealis).



Talking about lights, the Imagine Peace Tower, situated near Reykjavík, will be lit soon. The tower is a memorial to John Lennon, the English singer and songwriter who was part of the music group the Beatles. The Peace Tower is lit annually from October 9 (Lennon’s birthday) to December 8 (the day Lennon died). “Imagine” is a song written and sung by Lennon.

Here are three videos, one showing the northern lights over Reykjavik, another explaining the northern lights, and the last is “Imagine”.


Image Credits: http://reykjavik.is and Páll Stefánsson for the Northern Lights image, http://imaginepeacetower.com for the Imagine Peace Tower’s image 
Sources: http://reykjavik.is, http://imaginepeacetower.com