As part of my series on this year’s Nobel Prizes, I’m highlighting the winner of each prize.
German scientist Gerhard Ertl won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces”. This is more important than you might think, but as usual, nobelprize.org has the information you need. This is intended for laypeople, so you don’t have to have any special knowledge to understand it.
To begin with, editor-in-chief Adam Smith once again has written a wonderful “speed read”:
Exploring Chemistry at the Frontier
Like a successful dinner party, productive chemical reactions depend upon getting the right components to mingle in the right surroundings, and often the best environment for chemistry turns out to be a solid surface. From the cleaning of exhaust fumes in factory chimneys to the reduction of ozone on the outside of ice crystals in the clouds, surface chemistry surrounds us constantly. Developing ways to better understand the detailed dynamics of chemistry at these interfaces has been Gerhard Ertl’s life work.
And a six-page PDF shows us all the ways this field affects our lives. These are great resources for the public to use to stay in touch with science. Use them!
You may also enjoy videos of the announcement or the press release.
Winning the Nobel Prize is one of the highest honors one can achieve. Winners bring their institutions and their countries prestige. I’d like to highlight this year’s prizewinners.
The Nobel Prize in Physics this year was awarded to French scientist Albert Fert and German scientist Peter Grünberg. They were recognized for their independent discovery of giant magnetoresistance. The concept’s a bit esoteric, but the Nobel Prize site, nobelprize.org, has some nice introductory material. In fact, it’s really put together well and you are advised to browse through it for more information about any aspect of the Nobel Prizes.
I especially like their “speed read” summaries. The Physics entry is quite easy to understand and begins as follows:
The Giant within Small Devices
Lying at the heart of the computer which you are using to read this article is a memory retrieval system based on the discoveries for which the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg. They discovered, quite independently, a new way of using magnetism to control the flow of electrical current through sandwiches of metals built at the nanotechnology scale.
And if you have time, you should definitely read a nice 7-page PDF explaining the concept for the layperson, using illustrations and easy-to-understand concepts. I won’t bother going into detail here since the site does such a nice job. There’s no excuse not to know the basics of this discovery!
You can also see videos of the announcement, or read the press release.
THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR 2007
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.
Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.
Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.
Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world’s leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.
By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.
Oslo, 12 October 2007
Source: Norwegian Nobel Committee.
I am ecstatic. I’ll post more on this later.