From Dynamite to Lego Chemistry


This week we had Credit Suisse, Elon, and the jobs report. But you know what nobody is talking about, The Nobel Prizes that were announced this week. So, buckle up because you’re about to get educated. Let’s dial in.

The History

The prestigious award is named after Alfred Nobel, the famous scientist you’ve never heard of who invented……. you got it, dynamite. Obviously, this made him a very wealthy man which made him give his fortune to…….. you got it, not his family haha. Instead, Nobel willed most of his fortune to be used to give prizes to those who have done their best for humanity in the field of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace.

And just like that the Nobel Prize was born.  

The Lucky Winners

And without further ado this years lucky winners are: Svante Paabo (Physiology and Medicine), John Clauser (Physics; shared among three contributors), Carolyn Bertozzi (Chemistry; shared among three contributors), Annie Ernaux (Literature), and Ales Bialiatski, not the favorite, Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Peace; shared with Ukraine and Russia orgs).

Each of these lucky winners taking home 10 million Swedish krona (AKA $900K for our two US winners). Sounds just alright for a lifetime of work.

Now before you say “Yea, but I won’t be able to understand their research”, don’t worry, I’ve got ya. Here is Matt’s dumbed down version of what they do and why it matters:

Svante Paabo: Published the first Neanderthal genome sequence in 2010, a breakthrough in learning about human evolution. He also uncovered a previously unknown human subspecies: Denisova.

John Clauser: Disproved a well-known theory (the Bell inequality) through manipulating quantum states and their properties. These new procedures will help construct quantum computers, improve accuracy of measurements, build quantum networks, and help with communication encryption.

Carolyn Bertozzi: Found a way (“Click Chemistry”) to connect molecules as if they were Legos. This will help build new, advanced structures in a straightforward way which could be used to create new drugs, drug delivery methods, polymers (like plastics), etc.

Annie Ernaux: Wrote autobiographies about her life marked by strong disparities regarding gender, language, and class; investigating how her memory of event has changed over time.

Ales Bialiatski: was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. This prize was also shared with a Russian and Ukranian human rights organization amidst everything going on with the war.

There, consider yourself ~informed~

My Thoughts

I respect research and cutting-edge discoveries as much as the next person. I would also consider myself fairly educated in how to read research papers, but even I get bored, don’t understand the jargon, and fail to see the implications when I do find myself reading research papers. So I can only imagine what everyone else feels.

Point is, it just sucks that only people classically trained in the sciences can understand these papers written by some of the greatest minds on Earth. In my opinion, this should change. Someone should dumb it down and simplify the impacts.

Just tell me how this advances our understanding of something and what it means for everyday life.

I know that we are just on the cusp of AI, but it has a lot of useful applications like creating art, writing songs, and creating predictive models. Maybe this is another use case? Parse through all hyper specific mumbo jumbo and make it something more digestible for the public? SparkNotes for research papers? Someone in tech let me know.

That’s it. Short and sweet. Just some light reading on entangled photons and quantum physics.

Happy Friday! Let’s have ourselves a weekend.

from, matt

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