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