A league of super extraordinary people

This year’s laureates are, beyond an iota of doubt, the best selection that has been in a long time, even in the sometimes controversial Peace Prize. The overall picture is of geniuses who have striven for the betterment of society

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By Chanakya

This year’s  laureates present a very special group of people, as always, though there seems a little bit more punch in this year’s selections. Even the generally controversial Peace Nobel, awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, makes people hopeful that the major issues of the world are actually been addressed. The year’s awards started with the physics Nobel, the award being divided between Giorgio Parisi of Italy (who gets half of the prize money) and Syukuro Manabe (Japan) and Klaus Hasselmann of Germany (each getting a fourth of the prize money).
The prize this year was awarded: “for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex systems”. Manabe and Hasselmann were awarded for the first half “for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming” and the other half to Parisi “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”
These are far reaching awards, inventions that will affect Earth’s life cycle over a lot many years to come, within the current critical situation. The inventions vary from the macro physical situation states, involving the climate, to the micro state. In effect, such work is critical to the understanding of the world we live in and where we are headed. The work of the Swedish committee deserves huge praise for this.
Then came the chemistry prize. Here, again the prize was shared, between two, Benjamin List of Germany and David W.C. MacMillan of the UK, each getting half of the $ 1 million prize money and all of the honour.
This prize was awarded jointly “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.”
The prize in medicine followed. The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute has decded to award the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to David Julius (USA) and Ardem Patapoutian(Lebanon) “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch”.
The prize in literature followed. The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2021 has been awarded to novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah (Zanzibar) “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
The prize for peace was divided between two journalists. According to the Nobel Committee, there were 329 candidates nominated for the peace prize this year. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Rappler CEO Maria Ressa (The Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (USSR, now Russia), “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Finally the prize in economics was announced. The Nobel Prize in economics went to David Card (Guelph, Canada), “for his empirical contributions to labour economics;” to Joshua D. Angrist (Columbus, OH, USA) “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships;” and to Guido W. Imbens (Eindhoven, Netherlands), “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships.”
In the end, though one observation came out sharply. Only one woman (journalist Maria Ressa) was awarded a Nobel Prize this year, out of 13 laureates. The participation of women has been low for a while and the Nobel committee has expressed its dissatisfaction over this.
We study each prize separately, starting with the Peace Prize. This is the seventh time that peace awards were given to journalists, and so far eight have received it.
PEACE PRIZE
What this year’s Nobel showed was that journalists can do better than a Pulitzer. This was hammered home by the Norwegian Nobel Committee with its selection of Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov. It is more interesting, that these two have won from within two very disturbed, authoritarian regimes. It also shows that mainline, unbiased media and news reportage still carries weight in this divided, partisan world. There is a lesson in this for pathetically subservient Indian media houses.
What the committee’s chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said while announcing these awards was important. She said: “Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”
Let us take a look at these courageous people. Ressa, 58, is a Filipino-American journalist and author, the co-founder and CEO of Rappler, an anti-establishment news site. It is a site that has been so outspoken and strong in its views that the supremely authoritarian regimes (there have been many) of the country have hated. Following the award Ressa said that the authorities would not like it, but like it or hate it, Ressa cannot be ignored anymore. She, of course, had a sort of flak jacket, having worked for long as a lead investigative reporter in Southeast Asia for CNN. Extreme censure and even torture would have been her fate otherwise.
He main action was against President Rodrigo Duterte and his dictatorial regime. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign was so inhuman and so completely devoid of human rights adherence that possibly even the Taliban has not been able to emulate. Killings, even of plain drug users have been rampant and he has paid little heed to the world which has been up in arms. In the process, journalists too have been targeted. Within this pressure cooker-type and dangerous  atmosphere it was extremely creditable for Ressa to have functioned independently and boldly for so long. Not that she has not faced the ire of the president, having been convicted of cyber-libel by the Filipino government under the controversial Philippine Anti-Cybercrime law.
Ressa was also among Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2018 as one of a collection of journalists from around the world combating fake news.
Russia’s Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov (60) was in another constrictive and dangerous atmosphere, especially in the rule of President Vladimir Putin. Muratov, who is a journalist, a television presenter and the editor-in-chief of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. He has been functioning within a regime in which opposition leader Anatolievich Navalny could barely function. Those are Muratov’s and his pro-democracy newspaper Gazeta’s challenges. He did not flinch at publishing strong and critical articles by anti-Putin journalist Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya, who was first poisoned, than assassinated October 7, 2006 in the elevator of her block of flats.
These are journalists of merit, of worth. These are journalists who have not earned a name organising cheap and obscene shouting matches on television they call ‘debates’.
PHYSICS PRIZE
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 was awarded “for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex systems” with one half jointly to Syukuro Manabe (Japan) and Klaus Hasselmann (Germany) “for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming” and the other half to Giorgio Parisi (Italy) “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”
Syukuro “Suki” Manabe is a Japanese-educated American meteorologist and climatologist who pioneered the use of computers to simulate global climate change and natural climate variations. Klaus Ferdinand Hasselmann is a leading German oceanographer and climate modeller. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Hamburg and former Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.
Giorgio Parisi is an Italian theoretical physicist, whose research has focused on quantum field theory, statistical mechanics and complex systems Parisi said: “I am retired, you know, and have been a bit lazy lately. I am happy about the honour. The research continues.”
MEDICINE PRIZE
The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute has decided to award the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to David Julius (USA) and Ardem Patapoutian(Lebanon) “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch”.
“Let me just finish pouring some water into my coffee maker, because that’s going to be essential!” said by David Julius. “I had ‘do not disturb’ on my phone actually, so I didn’t get his phone calls” said by Ardem Patapoutian. “They were incredibly happy and as far as I could tell very surprised and a little bit shocked,” said Professor Thomas Perlmann, Secretary-General for the Nobel Assembly and the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine.
CHEMISTRY PRIZE
The 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Benjamin List (Germany) and David W.C. MacMillan (United Kingdom) “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.”
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has taken molecular construction to an entirely new level. It has not only made chemistry greener, but also made it much easier to produce asymmetric molecules. Avid MacMillan worked with metal catalysts that were easily destroyed by moisture. He wondered whether he could develop a more durable type of catalyst using simple organic molecules. One of these proved to be excellent at asymmetric catalysis.
Benjamin List wondered whether an entire enzyme was really required to obtain a catalyst. He tested whether an amino acid called proline could catalyse a chemical reaction. It worked brilliantly.
LITERATURE PRIZE
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2021 is awarded to the novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah (Zanzibar) “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents”.
Abdulrazak Gurnah a novelist and academic who is based in the United Kingdom. He was born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar and went to the United Kingdom as a refugee in the 1960s during the Zanzibar Revolution.
“It’s just great – its just a big prize, and such a huge list of wonderful writers – I am still taking it in,” he said.
ECONOMICS PRIZE
David Card (Guelph, Canada) “for his empirical contributions to labour economics”. Joshua D. Angrist (Columbus, OH, USA) “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships.” Guido W. Imbens (Eindhoven, Netherlands) “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships.”
Canadian-born David Card of the University of California at Berkeley was awarded one half of the prize, while the other half was shared by Joshua Angrist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dutch-born Guido Imbens, 58, from Stanford University.
“Card’s studies of core questions for society and Angrist and Imbens’ methodological contributions have shown that natural experiments are a rich source of knowledge,” said Peter Fredriksson, chair of the Economic Sciences Committee. “Their research has substantially improved our ability to answer key causal questions, which has been of great benefit for society.”
NOBEL WOMEN
Between 1901 and 2021, the Nobel prizes have been awarded to 58 women, with Marie Curie having won two awards, for physics in 1903 and for chemistry in 1911. This compares with 885 male laureates and 25 organizations that have won the prize.
The economics prize, which has been awarded since 1969, has been won by women only twice, in 2009 and 2019. Peter Fredriksson, chair of the economics prize committee, said in an interview in Stockholm that female representation among the economics laureates is “an issue that we take very seriously.
“It is probably related to the low representation of women within the field of economics historically,” Fredriksson said. “That said there is hope for change, because if you look at the Bates-Clark prize, which is awarded to economists under 40, the first woman got the prize 2007, and since then another 4 women have received the prize.”