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The 2020 Nobel Prizes: Black Holes and New Viruses11 min read

October 18, 2020 6 min read

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The 2020 Nobel Prizes: Black Holes and New Viruses11 min read

Reading Time: 6 minutes

It’s Nobel season, and it seems like great innovation is the only thing this pandemic hasn’t been able to get its mitts on.

Do you know why any of these people won the Nobel Prize this year?

Not yet? Don’t worry you’ll find out soon. You can always come back and match the laureates to their awards.

The Nobel Prize has 6 categories: Literature, Physics, Science, Economics, Chemistry, and Medicine. Every year a committee of experts and great thinkers select worthy winners for what may just be the prestigious awards in the world. The Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai, Ernest Hemingway, and Marie Curie are all past winners of Nobel Prizes!  

These committees, based in Sweden and Norway, announce their picks in October. Then, each December, the prizes are handed out in lavish ceremonies with trumpets, organs, music, dance and sometimes even acrobats. These ceremonies are held at the beautiful concert halls in Sweden and Norway. The awards in Sweden are given out by the king of Sweden himself!

Fun Fact: Turbot cupolas, pumpkin gel, guinea hen mosaics, watercress foam, potato pithiviers, clouds of fruit and deep fried rice paper, are just some of the delicacies served at the Nobel Banquet. Every year celebrity chefs with highly skilled teams prepare the food for what could be one of the most lavish meals in the world.

Nobel Prize 2020: A Slightly Different Occasion

However, this year due to the pandemic and social distancing guidelines, the winners will receive their prizes in their home countries. 

Although these great thinkers will miss out on the fancy ceremony and delicious food, their award is one to be envied. They will each receive a gold-plated medal with Alfred Nobel’s face on it, a beautiful certificate that is designed by a famous artist as well as 10 million Swedish Kronor! That’s about 8 crore rupees or 1 million dollars! 

So who were this year’s winners, and why did they win? 

Let’s see:

Physics Prize 2020:

Who gets this award?

People who make important inventions or discoveries in the field of Physics are eligible for this award.

Who were this year’s Nobel laureates?

Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez won the Nobel prize for their discoveries around one of the strangest objects in the whole milky way: Black Holes. Black Holes are dark masses in the universe that are so densely packed with various celestial objects that their gravity prevents even light from escaping! Want to know a little more about black holes? Click here.

Fun fact: You can fall into a black hole but you can never leave.

How did this discovery benefit humankind?

While it may be difficult to see any direct benefit to knowing more about black holes, it does help us understand the secrets that are hidden in this vast Universe.

Fun fact: Blackhole theories have given rise to fascinating ideas such as “wormholes”. “Wormholes” are a kind of shortcut through vast areas of time and space.

To know more about this discovery, click here

Medicine Prize 2020:

Who gets this award?

People who have either understood how organisms work or have helped find a cure for a disease are eligible for this award. 

Who were this year’s Nobel laureates?

Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles Rice won the Nobel prize for their discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. 

How did this discovery benefit humankind? 

This discovery has saved countless lives! Discovering this virus meant that scientists were able to develop a medicine or antiviral for the illness that it caused. Moreover, people when people receive blood in hospitals, the blood can be tested for this virus to prevent it from spreading from one patient to another.

To know more about this discovery, click here.  

Chemistry Prize 2020:

Who gets this award?

People who have made discoveries or improvements that have given us knowledge regarding the make-up and functioning of various substances are eligible for this award.

Who were this year’s Nobel laureates?

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna won the Nobel prize for their discovery of “gene-editing scissors”. They discovered a way to alter the DNA or the inherent properties of living cells. 

How did this discovery benefit humankind? 

This discovery has so many uses its ridiculous! It can be used to study and understand our bodies and the way they are built to function. Thanks to this discovery, scientists are on the way to make their dream come true-they may finally be able to cure life-threatening illnesses such as cancer! Since genetic scissors can be used to totally change a human being, this tool could be severely misused in the wrong hands. Thus, there are many laws and regulations that determine its use.

Fun fact: Genetic scissors have been used to alter some species of rice so that it doesn’t absorb dangerous metals from the soil, and harm those that eat it. 

To know more about this discovery, click here.  

Literature Prize 2020:

Who gets this award?

Authors who have written works of fiction – novels, short stories, poetry collections, and theatrical plays are eligible for this award. However, sometimes even other writers can receive this award. 

Fun Fact: In 2016, when Bob Dylan became the Laureate in Literature, the Prize went to a musician and songwriter 

Who were this year’s Nobel laureates?

Louise Glück won the Nobel prize for her collections of poetry. 

How did this discovery benefit humankind?

Louise Glück is an American poet who writes beautiful poetry that deals with individual struggles of life. She carefully deals with topics such as isolation, family relationships, divorce, and the development of the soul in confronting death. Through her simple writing, Glück manages to tackle struggles and experiences that cannot easily be put into words. She even manages to add humor to the situation! Her accessible poetry highlights the uniformity of human experience and helps people around the world see that at the end of it all, we are all the same.

Fun Fact: When asked which of her books one should start with if interested in getting to know her work, Louise Glück recommends Averno.

To know more about Glück’s work, click here.

Economics Prize 2020:

Who gets this award?

Economists who have produced outstanding work are eligible for this award.

Who were this year’s Nobel laureates?

Robert B. Wilson and Paul R. Milgrom won the prize for their work on an economic theory known as auction theory

How did this discovery benefit humankind?

Their theory has invented better auction formats that make public auctions safer. The safer sale of public goods such as public land is more valuable for the common taxpayer and saves private individuals money.

 Fun Fact: Many people believe this theory has, in fact, failed India’s economy!

To know more about this theory, click here.  

Peace Prize 2020:

Who gets this award?

While all the other awards may only be given to a maximum of three people, the peace prize may be given to an organization as well. This prize is given to “individuals and organizations that work towards a more peaceful world”.

Who were this year’s Nobel laureates?

The world food program(WFP) was given the Nobel Prize for feeding people in war-torn areas. 

Who were this year’s Nobel laureates?

First of all, the WFP helps millions of people, particularly those living in war-torn areas, avoid starvation. Moreover, they prevent people from using hunger as a weapon of war. What does that mean? Well, many people in war-torn countries are made unfit or killed not by bombs but by a quieter form of warfare. They allow people to starve by creating conditions of extreme poverty.  

To know more about this decision, click here.

The missing laureate? 

Mahatma Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize even though he was nominated several times. Due to his peaceful yet revolutionary ideas and practice, many people believe he should have won the award but never won it due to his nationality.

Mahatma Gandhi laughing

Images:NobelPrize.org

With excerpts from: NobelPrize.org, New York Times, The Guardian