October 8, 2018

American researchers William Nordhaus and Paul Romer have won the Nobel Prize for economics for their work examining the interplay of climate change and technological innovation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Monday.

Nordhaus, of Yale University, was the first economist to create a quantitative model that "describes the global interplay between the economy and the climate," showing that "the most efficient remedy for problems caused by greenhouse gases is a global scheme of universally imposed carbon taxes," the academy said. Romer, of New York University's Stern School of Business, helped provide the research that led to the endogenous growth theory, and has shed light on how economic forces steer companies' willingness to produce new ideas and innovations, CNBC reports. Harold Maass

October 5, 2018

On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict." In announcing the prize, the committee said they see some similarities between the #MeToo movement and this year's prize, but the use of sexual violence as an act of war is its own category. They said they have not yet been able to contact Mukwege or Murad to inform them that they are Nobel Peace laureates.

Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, "has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo," and he and his staff "have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults," the Nobel Committee said. "Mukwege has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticized the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war."

Murad, one of 3,000 Yazidi girls and women abducted by the Islamic State and used as sex slaves, is "the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims," the committee said. "The abuses were systematic and part of a military strategy. They served as a weapon in the fight against Yazidis and other religious minorities." Peter Weber

October 3, 2018

On Wednesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to two Americans and one British chemist for research that has "taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind." Half of the award and $1 million prize goes to Frances H. Arnold at the California Institute of Technology for conducting "the first directed evolution of enzymes," the academy said. George P. Smith at the University of Missouri in Columbia and Sir Gregory P. Winter at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge were jointly awarded the other half for using "phage display" to help produce new pharmaceuticals.

Arnold is just the fifth woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and her enzymes have been used to create "more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, and the production of renewable fuels for a greener transport sector," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. The first drug created with the evolved proteins ushered in by Smith and Winter, adalimumab, was approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases in 2002, and "since then, phage display has produced antibodies that can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases, and cure metastatic cancer." Peter Weber

October 2, 2018

On Tuesday morning, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics to three scientists "for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics." American Arthur Ashkin was awarded half of the Nobel for inventing "optical tweezers and their application to biological systems," while Gérard Mourou of France and Canadian Donna Strickland were jointly awarded the other half "for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses."

"Ashkin's optical tweezers grab particles, atoms, and molecules with their laser beam fingers," The Royal Swedish Academy said. "They can examine and manipulate viruses, bacteria, and other living cells without damaging them." Comparing Ashkin's invention to science fiction, the academy explained that "optical tweezers make it possible to observe, turn, cut, push, and pull with light. In many laboratories, laser tweezers are used to study biological processes, such as proteins, molecular motors, DNA, or the inner life of cells."

The work of Mourou and Strickland "paved the way toward the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind," creating a technique called chirped pulse amplication where you "take a short laser pulse, stretch it in time, amplify it and squeeze it together again," the Swedish Academy said. "Ultra-sharp laser beams make it possible to cut or drill holes in various materials extremely precisely — even in living matter. Millions of eye operations are performed every year with the sharpest of laser beams." Peter Weber

October 1, 2018

On Monday, Sweden's Karolinska Institute awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology to American James Allison and Japan's Tasuku Honjo for their work on therapies to fight cancer. Allison, at the University of Texas, realized that a certain protein inhibits the immune system from attacking cancer and developed an approach that released the break on the immune system, unleashing cells to swarm tumors. Honjo, at Japan's Kyoto University, discovered a different protein that acts as a brake on immune cells, the Nobel Committee said, and "therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer."

"Allison and Honjo showed how different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system can be used in the treatment of cancer," the Nobel Committee said. "The seminal discoveries by the two laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer." They will split the $1 million prize. You can read more about their research in the Nobel press release. Peter Weber

June 13, 2018

President Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize — for real this time — due to his participation in the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, The Associated Press reports. Trump was nominated by two members of Norway's populist Progress Party, who said Trump has "taken a huge and important step in the direction of the disarmament, peace, and reconciliation between North and South Korea."

Earlier this year, 18 House Republicans nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work "to end the Korean War, denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and bring peace to the region." Trump said this spring that "everyone thinks" he should win the Nobel, "but I would never say it."

Four American presidents have won the prize, including former President Barack Obama in 2009. Jeva Lange

October 9, 2017

On Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics to American economist Richard Thaler, 72, "for his contributions to behavioral economics."

Thaler, a professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, helped bridge "economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making," and his "empirical findings and theoretical insights have been instrumental in creating the new and rapidly expanding field of behavioral economics, which has had a profound impact on many areas of economic research and policy," the Swedish Academy said.

Thaler's pioneering work in behavioral finance included research into the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences in regards to the market effects of consumers' fairness concerns, and how lack of self control can lead to long-term financial and health problems. "In his applied work, Thaler demonstrated how nudging — a term he coined — may help people exercise better self-control when saving for a pension, as well in other contexts," the Swedish Academy said. Thaler responded to his Nobel, and its $1.1 million award, by promising to "try to spend it as irrationally as possible!" And for a discipline known as the "dismal science," that's not a bad quip. Peter Weber

October 6, 2017

On Friday morning, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an international consortium of nongovernmental organizations, for "its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons." In July, 122 United Nations member states signed on to a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons pushed by ICAN, which will be legally binding on signatories once 50 nations ratify it.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee noted that none of the nuclear powers signed the treaty, and said getting their buy-in was the next stage in the fight for global nuclear disarmament. In a news conference afterward, committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen waved off suggestions that awarding the peace prize to ICAN was a message to President Trump, saying it was encouragement for all nuclear-armed powers.

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee is aware that an international legal prohibition will not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon," it said in its press release, but five of the original nuclear powers have signed on to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1970, and that "will remain the primary international legal instrument for promoting nuclear disarmament and preventing the further spread of such weapons. ... It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that ICAN, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigor." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads