2014 Nobel Prizes

The 2014 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 was started in 1901.

The Nobel Prize in Physics went to Isamu Akasaki (Japan), Hiroshi Amano (Japan), and Shuji Nakamura (Japan, USA) for inventing the blue light-emitting diode (LED) in the 1990s. It’s thanks to this invention that we have a low-energy way of creating white light. Red and green LEDs had been around for many years, but without the blue LED, white light could not be generated. (If you combine red, green, and blue light, you get white.) Many of you have a blue LED in your pocket or your bag. Many cell phones and gadgets with lit displays use these LEDs.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to John O’Keefe (USA, UK), May-Britt Moser (Norway), and Edvard Moser (Norway). They discovered that our brains have an inner positioning system, like a GPS, which helps us figure out where we are and how we go from one place to another. There are cells in our brains which form a map of where we are and then there are cells that generate a coordinate system. These cells work together to help us figure out our position and how to navigate ourselves to places.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Eric Betzig (USA), Stefan Hell (Romania, Germany) and William Moerner (USA) for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy. Well, what does that mean? Microscopes are instruments that magnify objects so that you can see and observe them. However, traditional microscopes could only see things that were of a certain size. The work of these three men enabled the creation of microscopes that could peek at extremely small objects such as individual molecules inside living cells. This has helped scientists better understand the human body and some diseases that many people suffer from.

Patrick Modiano (France) won the Nobel Prize in Literature. He has written many stories in French and some have been translated into English. Modiano was born in Paris, the capital of France, just before World War II ended in 1945. Paris was occupied by the Germans during part of the war. Many of Modiano’s stories are based in Paris and are around happenings during the German occupation. Some characters from his novels reappear in his other novels as well. A couple of his novels translated into English are Les boulevards de ceinture and Villa Triste.

Kailash Satyarthi (India) and Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan) won the Nobel Peace Prize for standing up for children and young people’s rights. Many kids are forced to work in factories and farms. Satyarthi has led many peaceful protests to bring an end to child labor. He is 60 years old. Yousafzai is just 17 years old. She is the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Prize. She advocates the right for girls to be educated. She lived in a small town in Pakistan. A group took over the area where she lived and didn’t allow girls to be educated. Yousafzai used to go to school secretly, but eventually had to stop. At the age of 11, she started speaking out for the right of girls to be educated, and was even given a peace award by the Pakistani government. When she was 14, some people shot her because she was promoting girls’ education. She was very ill for some time, but now she goes to school in the United Kingdom and continues with her efforts.

Jean Tirole (France) won the Nobel Prize for Economics. His work has helped governments come up with better policies in industries that are dominated by a few large companies. When a large company is powerful in an industry, it can become hard for smaller competitors to survive. Also, the large corporation can charge customers more money for products since customers don’t have much choice. Some governments came up with policies that they used in all industries for such situations. Tirole pointed out that these fixed rules don’t actually work well in all industries. The policies should be based according to the industry. He has come up with methods for figuring out such policies.

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.

Did you know?

The two most common dates for birthdays among the Nobel Laureates are May 21 and February 28.

Image Credits: www.nobelprize.org for all the Nobel Prize images
Sources: www.nobelprize.org, http://www.malala.org/