Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Nobel Prizes

Every year, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I experience a surge of interest in science.  I usually watch a few TED Talks and read some of the winner in Literature’s writings, and sometimes I wonder if I could track down and read an original paper with the ideas that led to a Nobel Prize.  Unfortunately, my science education topped out around sophomore biology, so the idea that I could make it through something of that caliber is, objectively speaking, hilarious.

So, for science types, I’ve located those original papers that won this year’s Nobel prizes.  And for the rest of us, I’ve found some clever things to read.  Everything can be found in the Armacost Library.  Enjoy!

Rothman, Schekman and Südhof discovered how cells transport key substances, which has implications for conditions like immuno-deficiency, diabetes, and autism.  For some Sherlockian adventures in medicine, check out The deadly dinner party & other medical detective stories.


Englert and Higgs were among the first to identify what gives weight to the universe-- you might remember the Higgs Boson particle was finally pinned down a few years ago-- and their original papers were published in 1964.

The Nobel people wrote a detailed article on the Higgs Boson here, and a friendlier article for non-physicists here.  If that all sounds fascinating, check the shelves for The Particle at the End of the Universe.

Not enough pictures?  How about a graphic novel on physicist and Nobel prize winner Richard Feynman?

If even that’s too much, see what you can get out of this recording of “Higgs Boson for string quintet” on Naxos, the library’s streaming music service.


Karplus, Levitt, and Warshel developed computer programs to simulate chemical reactions, which help guide the experiments that are carried out in the real world.  Again, the people at Nobel described it all for chemists and then for the rest of us.

If that’s still incomprehensible, you can read about chemists who have saved the world in The Alchemy of Air and Obsessive Genius: the Inner World of Marie Curie.


We have plenty of works by Canadian author Alice Munro.  You may want to start with her collection The Beggar Maid, which was also nominated for the Booker Prize in 1980 (Munro won that award in 2009). 


The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won the Peace Prize, and you can read about the history of chemical warfare in War of nerves: chemical warfare from World War I to al-Qaeda.  For something a bit more exciting, Cassidy's run: the secret spy war over nerve gas tells a true story of espionage during the cold war.


The prize in economics was not in Nobel’s will, but was created by Sweden’s Central Bank.  With what may have been unintentional irony, three Americans were recognized for contributions in economics: Fama, Hansen, and Shiller. 

You can find a few of Shiller’s books in the library, including his classic work “Irrational exuberance”.  For more on the psychology of irrationality, check out author Dan Ariely.

Citations: nearly all of these articles can be found in the library, either on-site or in the databases.
  • Novick P, Schekman R: Secretion and cell-surface growth are blocked in a temperature-sensitive mutant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1979; 76:1858-1862.
  • Balch WE, Dunphy WG, Braell WA, Rothman JE: Reconstitution of the transport of protein between successive compartments of the Golgi measured by the coupled incorporation of N-acetylglucosamine. Cell 1984; 39:405-416.
  • Kaiser CA, Schekman R: Distinct sets of SEC genes govern transport vesicle formation and fusion early in the secretory pathway. Cell 1990; 61:723-733.
  • Perin MS, Fried VA, Mignery GA, Jahn R, Südhof TC: Phospholipid binding by a synaptic vesicle protein homologous to the regulatory region of protein kinase C. Nature 1990; 345:260-263.
  • Sollner T, Whiteheart W, Brunner M, Erdjument-Bromage H, Geromanos S, Tempst P, Rothman JE: SNAP receptor implicated in vesicle targeting and fusion. Nature 1993; 362:318-324.
  • Hata Y, Slaughter CA, Südhof TC: Synaptic vesicle fusion complex contains unc-18 homologue bound to syntaxin. Nature 1993; 366:347-351.
  • F. Englert and R. Brout, “Broken Symmetry and the Mass of the Gauge Vector Mesons”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 13, 321 (1964). 
  • P.W. Higgs, “Broken Symmetries and the Mass of the Gauge Bosons”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 13, 508 (1964). 
  • R. Praiser and R. Parr, J. Chem.Phys. 21, 466, 1953.
  • Warshel and M. Levitt, J. Mol. Biol. 103, 227, 1976.
  • M. Levitt and A. Warshel, Nature 253, 694, 1975.  (Q 1 .N2) 
  • Warshel and M. Karplus, J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 94, 5612, 1972.
  • J. A. Pople, Trans. Faraday Soc. 49, 1375, 1953.

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