Thursday, January 14, 2016

AWARDS AT A GLANCE

Nobel Prize 2015
Medicine: Jointly won by William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura, and Ms Youyou Tu (China). Mr. Campbell and Mr. Omura won it for “their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites”, while Ms. Tu won it for “her discoveries concerning a novel therapy for malaria.” Mr. Campbell and Mr. Ōmura discovered a new drug, Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis. Ms. Youyou Tu discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from Malaria. Tu Youyou (pronounced “TOO yoyo”), 84, also became China’s first woman to win any Nobel prize.
Physics: Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo and Arthur B. McDonald of Queen’s University in Canada are joint winners, for their contributions to observations on the oscillations of neutrinos, which show that neutrinos—previously thought to be massless—indeed have mass. Neutrinos are some of the subatomic particles that make up our universe. They’re everywhere, and trillions of them flow through your body at every second. But because neutrinos move nearly at the speed of light and don’t interact with matter, they’re little understood. Suggested in 1930 and confirmed in the 1950s, neutrinos were long thought to be totally massless.
Chemistry: Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar, for studies of DNA’s repair mechanisms. Lindahl, of the Francis Crick Institute in England, determined that DNA isn’t actually very stable: It can fall apart on its own, without injury. He described how a cell can remove and replace damaged genetic building blocks. Modrich, of Duke University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, revealed how a cell can correct these genetic errors by replacing DNA’s individual constituents. Sancar, of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, uncovered which proteins are responsible for patching DNA up after ultraviolet damage, and how they work. DNA encodes the instructions for building and conducting life. But it’s a fragile molecule that can be altered or damaged by sunlight, toxic chemicals, radiation or even normal chemical reactions inside the cell.
Literature: Belarussian writer Svetlana Alexievich “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”. She has drawn international acclaim with her emotional accounts of the Chernobyl disaster and World War II based on witness accounts. But her books, controversially written in Russian, are not published in her home country, long ruled by authoritarian president, amid what the author has described as “a creeping censorship”.
Peace: The National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia, “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.” The quartet comprises four organizations: Tunisian General Labor Union; Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; Tunisian Human Rights League; and Tunisian Order of Lawyers. The four groups were vital in helping Tunisia negotiate its way through the most serious threat to its nascent transition: the crisis that followed the assassination of the opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi in July 2013. The prize came nearly five years after an unemployed street vendor set himself on fire, touching off a political earthquake that toppled Tunisia’s longtime authoritarian President and proceeded to reverberate throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Economics: Angus Deaton of Princeton University, NJ, USA, “for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare”. By linking detailed individual choices and aggregate outcomes, his research has helped transform the fields of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and development economics. The work for which Deaton is now being honored revolves around three central questions: How do consumers distribute their spending among different goods?; How much of society’s income is spent and how much is saved? and How do we best measure and analyze welfare and poverty?.
Man Booker Prize, 2015
Jamaican writer Marlon James has been named the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2015 for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings”. It is the first Booker Prize to be won by a Jamaican, and the first for its independent publisher Oneworld Publications.
Mr. James’s book was chosen from a shortlist of seven writers, who included the bookies favourite Hanya Yanagihara for “A Little Life”, and the British writer of Indian origin Sunjeev Sahota for “The Year of the Runaways”.

Breakthrough Prizes 2015
Life Sciences: Karl Deisseroth, a professor at Stanford University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and Edward S. Boyden, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, each received $3 million for their roles in the development of optogenetics, a technique that allows scientists to use light to turn neurons and groups of neurons on and off. The technique is transforming the study of the brain because it allows scientists to test ideas about how the brain works.
Fundamental Physics: The Fundamental Physics prize has been awarded to an entire community of some 1,300 physicists who have laboured underground in tunnels and caverns over the last two decades to investigate these ghostly denizens of the cosmos—neutrinos. Five teams have been recognized: the Super-Kamioka Neutrino Detection Experiment in Kamioka, Japan, led by Takaaki Kajita and Yoichiro Suzuki; the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Ontario, led by Arthur B. McDonald; the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment in China, led by Yifang Wang and Kam-Biu Luk; the KamLAND neutrino detector in Toyama, Japan, led by Atsuto Suzuki; and the KEK to Kamioka and Tokai to Kamioka Long Baseline Neutrino Oscillation Experiments in Japan, led by Koichiro Nishikawa. Neutrinos were once thought to be massless, but as a result of these teams’ work, physicists and cosmologists now know that neutrinos weigh about as much collectively as all the stars in the universe, and they know how the sun works.
Mathematics: Ian Agol, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Institute for Advanced Study, who focuses primarily on manifolds of four or fewer dimensions, a field of study known as low-dimensional topology, has been honoured for what the prize foundation called his “spectacular contributions to low-dimensional topology and geometric group theory, including work on the solutions of the tameness, virtual Haken and virtual fibering conjectures.” In mathematics, “manifold” refers to any object that seems flat on a small scale. For example, people for centuries thought the earth was flat because on a small scale – what people can see around them – it is. Lines and circles are one-dimensional manifolds; forms like planes and spheres are two-dimensional manifolds.
The Breakthrough prizes are the richest awards in science. The Breakthrough Prizes were founded by Sergey Brin of Google; Anne Wojcicki of 23andme; Jack Ma of Alibaba and his wife, Cathy Zhang; Yuri Milner, an Internet entrepreneur, and his wife, Julia Milner; and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
Infosys Prize 2015
Prof. Umesh Waghmare, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), who used advanced computer simulations to predict the properties of materials that potentially could be used in an aircraft or a computer chip, is among the six researchers who have won the 2015 Infosys Prize of $100,000 (₹65 lakh) each, for their research works. He won in the Engineering and Computer Science category.
The others winners are:
Jonardon Ganeri, a visiting Professor of Philosophy, New York University, for contributions in the field of analytical Indian philosophy that gained him the recognition in Humanities field.
Mahan Maharaj, a monk who is an Associate Professor of Mathematics, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, Howrah, for his contributions to Mathematical Sciences.
Amit Sharma from International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, for his work in Life Sciences on study of malarial parasite.
Ravindra Kumar (Professor in the Department of Nuclear and Atomic Physics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research or TIFR), for his research in Physical Sciences;
Srinath Raghavan (an ex-army officer and a Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi), for his work on Military History and International Politics in Social sciences stream.
Infosys Prize is an effort of the Infosys Science Foundation to recognise and award leading researchers in the fields of Engineering and Computer Science, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences. The Infosys Science Foundation is one of the few such initiatives for recognising research achievements in India.
Nations Champions of the Earth award
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been announced as one of the winners of the United Nations Champions of the Earth award in recognition of her country’s initiatives to address climate change.
The award cites, among other initiatives, the progressive Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009, which made the South Asian nation the first developing country to frame such a coordinated action plan. Bangladesh is also the first country to set up its own Climate Change Trust Fund, supported by nearly USD 300 million of domestic resources from 2009-2012. In addition, under leadership of Sheihk Hasina, the Bangladesh Constitution was amended in 2011 to include a constitutional directive to the State to protect the environment and natural resources for current and future generations.