How Nobel Prize winner physicist Lev Landau ranked the best physics minds of his generation.
- Nobel-Prize-winning Soviet physicist Lev Landau used a scale to rank the best physicists of the 20th century.
- The physicist based it on their level of contribution to science.
- The scale was logarithmic, with each level being 10 times more valuable.
Rank 0.5 – Albert Einstein<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NDY3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI2NTU4OH0.FtBYC7oJz-ZOiiGC9y0Z50_JvQChmp-ONa3jhR3SuLA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d6f66" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="61288810a4f035ec2af8957fad4e9015" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3600" data-height="2819" />
Albert Einstein With Displaced Children From Concentration Camps. 1949.
Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Rank 1<p>The group in this class of the smartest physicists included the top minds that developed the theories of quantum mechanics.</p><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Heisenberg" target="_blank">Werner Heisenberg</a> (1901 - 1976) - a German theoretical physicist, who's achieved pop-culture fame by being the name of Walter White's alter ego in <em>Breaking Bad</em>. He is known for the Heiseinberg Uncertainty Principle and his 1932 Nobel Prize award flatly states it was for nothing less than "the creation of quantum mechanics".</p><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Schr%C3%B6dinger" target="_blank">Erwin Schrödinger</a> (1887 - 1961) - an Austrian-Irish physicist who gave us the infamous "Schroedinger's Cat" thought experiment and other mind-benders from quantum mechanics. The Nobel-prize-winner's <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger_equation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Schrödinger equation</a> calculates the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_function" target="_blank">wave function</a> of a system and how it changes over time. </p>
Erwin Schrödinger. 1933.
Satyendra Nath Bose. 1930s.
Enrico Fermi. 1950s.
Rank 2.5<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NDcwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDE1MDIxM30.Eg6tca61EredHxjqNH29HY3UeJbgBVa1nA13EhXTooU/img.jpg?width=980" id="90f86" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0f1e6c5e13263a77b2061e1191fd8baf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1080" data-height="1527" />
Lev Landau. 1962.<p><strong>Rank 2.5</strong> is where Landau initially ranked himself, rather modestly, thinking he didn't produce any foundational accomplishments. He later moved his prominence, as his achievement mounted, to the higher <strong>1.5.</strong></p>
Whether the data prove you right or wrong, it's crucial to ask: what else is it telling me?
- In 2018, Dr. Jim Allison was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering an effective way to attack cancer through immunology.
- In his lab, Allison urges researchers to get rid of the idea that they can prove something with science. All they can do is fail to disprove.
- Jim Allison is the subject of Jim Allison: Breakthrough, a documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson that brings filmmakers and scientists together to tell the story of a Nobel Prize-winning cancer discovery that changed the world. In cinemas September 27th, 2019.
How do you develop the next big idea? You pull together people who are both curious and passionate.
- In 2018, Dr. Jim Allison was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering an effective way to attack cancer through immunology.
- In pursuing this discovery, he recruited other scientists who were curious, who cared about and were committed to science. "You have to put up with a lot of failure, 'cause if you're not, you're probably doing boring stuff," Allison says.
- When it comes to developing a theory that works, it's critical to ask as many people as possible on a project for their hypotheses on why a particular outcome may take place. By pulling together these ideas, and testing them, better data can be accumulated.
From literature to physics, the annual Nobel Prizes aim to highlight the most groundbreaking achievements in every field.
- Each year, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards six Nobel Prizes.
- The categories are: literature, physics, chemistry, peace, economics, and physiology & medicine.
- The Nobel prizes will be announced each business-day until October 14.
Nobel Peace Prize<p>Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/17/world/africa/ethiopia-abiy-ahmed.html?module=inline" target="_blank">won the Nobel Peace</a> on Friday for helping to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.</p><p>Eritrea and Ethiopia, two of the world's poorest nations, fought a war against each other from 1998 to 2000. A peace treaty in 2000 stopped the large-scale fighting, but a stalemate ensued, and both sides have in recent years accused the other of sparking smaller border clashes.</p>
Nobel Prize: Literature<p>The Swedish Academy awarded two writers the Nobel Prize in Literature: The Polish author and poet Olga Tokarczuk received the 2018 award, and the 2019 prize went to Austrian author and playwright Peter Handke.</p><p>Last year's Nobel Prize in Literature was postponed due to a <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/nobel-literature-prize-cancelled-after-sex-assault-scandal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sexual assault scandal</a> involving the husband of an academy member. After the scandal, several board members departed and the academy changed the way it chooses winners.</p><p><strong>Peter Handke</strong><br></p><p>Handke is a 76-year-old Austrian playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet who gained acclaim early in his career for his avant-garde play "Offending the Audience." He's also written many scripts for films, including <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_linksh%C3%A4ndige_Frau" target="_blank"><em>Die linkshändige Frau</em></a> (<em>The Left–Handed Woman</em>), which in 1978 was nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival.</p><p>But Handke's win is proving controversial. The writer is a well-known apologist for former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused by a United Nations tribunal of war crimes related to wars in Kosovo, Croatia, and Bosnia. In his writings, Handke controversially portrayed Serbia as a victim of the Yugoslav Wars. Although Handke declined Milosevic's request to appear as a witness at his U.N. trial., the writer did eulogize Milosevic after he died in prison awaiting trial.</p><p>"I think he was a rather tragic man," Handke said in a 2006 interview. "Not a hero, but a tragic human being. I am a writer and not a judge."</p><p>Surprisingly, in 2014 Handke said the Nobel Prize for literature <a href="https://www.diepresse.com/3892843/handke-den-nobelpreis-sollte-man-endlich-abschaffen" target="_blank">"should be abolished"</a> because it "promotes the false canonization of literature."</p><p>A handful of writers and literary organizations have already denounced the academy's decision to award the prize to Handke.</p><p>"We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic," the novelist Jennifer Egan, who is president of PEN America, said in a statement on behalf of the organization. "At a moment of rising nationalism, autocratic leadership, and widespread disinformation around the world, the literary community deserves better than this. We deeply regret the Nobel Committee on Literature's choice."</p><p>"Have we become so numb to racism, so emotionally desensitized to violence, so comfortable with appeasement that we can overlook one's subscription and service to the twisted agenda of a genocidal maniac?" <a href="https://twitter.com/vloracitaku/status/1182281566921351169?s=20" target="_blank">tweeted Vlora Citaku</a>, Kosovo's ambassador to the United States.</p><p><strong>Olga Tokarczuk</strong><br></p><p>Tokarczuk, who also <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-44219438" target="_blank">won last year's Man Booker International Prize</a> for her novel "Flights," is the 15th woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature. The judges described her as "a writer preoccupied by local life ... but looking at earth from above ... her work is full of wit and cunning," and said she possesses "a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life."</p><p>Tokarczuk is a <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/08/05/olga-tokarczuks-novels-against-nationalism" target="_blank">controversial figure in Poland</a>, a nation dominated by right-wing populist politics, which she frequently criticizes. After she criticized Poland's history of colonialism in a 2014 interview, some right-wing nationalists called her a "targowiczanin," an archaic term for traitor.</p><p>Some of Tokarczuk's works to check out include: "The Journey of the Book-People," "Primeval and Other Times," and the screenplay for the crime film "Spoor", which was nominated for best foreign language film at the 2018 Oscars.</p>
Nobel Prize: Physics<p>How did the Big Bang produce the swirling galaxies that populate our universe, and how can scientists detect and study planets that orbit stars light-years away from Earth? The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics goes to three scientists who helped shed light on these complex questions.</p><p>James Peebles, the Albert Einstein professor of science at Princeton, received half of the award, which includes half of the $918,000 prize money. Michel Mayor, an astrophysicist and professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of Geneva, and Didier Queloz, a professor of physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University and at the University of Geneva, together share the other half of the prize.</p><p>"While James Peebles' theoretical discoveries contributed to our understanding of how the universe evolved after the Big Bang, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz explored our cosmic neighborhoods on the hunt for unknown planets. Their discoveries have forever changed our conceptions of the world," the secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Goran Hansson, said.</p>
Nobel Prize: Medicine<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTgxMzA0OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDIyMjI5Nn0.aRmmgF4lVSwGG6k9ANBnXTPTU9FzGcNL1T19BLIEoXU/img.jpg?width=980" id="785f9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="08756ab7e2891ba9aa9de4ed5981019b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo by Xinhua/Zheng Huansong via Getty Images<p>The 2019 <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/2019-nobel-medicine?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nobel Prize in medicine</a> was awarded to three scientists from the U.S. and U.K. working independently on the same problem: how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. Gregg Semenza of Johns Hopkins University, Sir Peter Ratcliffe of Oxford University, and William Kaelin, Jr., of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard University received the 5 a.m. call from Stockholm. The three maintained an ongoing and informal conversation, sharing work and consequentially rocketing the entire field of study forward.</p><p>Their research unveiled a genuine textbook discovery. "They've unveiled the series of molecular events that allow cells to assess and respond to changing levels of available oxygen, with implications in the treatment of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, anemia, and other diseases," according to previous Big Think reporting. Read the full article dedicated to the findings <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/2019-nobel-medicine?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1" target="_blank">here</a>.<br></p>
Three scientist friends, working separately, share the prestigious prize.
- Nobel recognizes breakthrough insights into cell's perception and response to changes in oxygen levels.
- Too title oxygen is a problem. Also too much.
- Their research unveiled a genuine "textbook discovery."
Three scientists with three questions<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTIzMjcxNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzcxNjAwOH0.XeB7CuXJJvS5XGmE4GKCNwj2c64yyd7MaInSv7R9cIE/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=274%2C232%2C175%2C290&height=700" id="6c545" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b518ac41fd9cd56f3eb1fb1ce6ea1ca4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Paramonov Alexander/Shutterstock<p>The three scientists who received the 5 a.m. call from Stockholm are Gregg Semenza (Johns Hopkins University), Sir Peter Ratcliffe (Oxford University), and William Kaelin, Jr. (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard University). The three shared their work informally over the years in an ongoing conversation that moved the whole field of study forward. Each had his own reason for pursuing his research area, and their interests reflect the far-ranging impact of their findings.</p><p>Semenza wondered exactly what it was that cancer cells were seeking when they spread to new areas in the body. He suspected it was oxygen.</p><p>As a kidney specialist, Ratcliffe was intrigued by the manner in which the kidney regulated the production of a particular hormone, erythropoietin (EPO), which affects the production of red, oxygen-carrying blood cells in response to changes in levels of available oxygen. Others considered this to be a not-very-interesting question, but Ratcliffe was intrigued.</p><p>For Kaelin, it was a pursuit of answers behind a rare genetic form of cancer, <a href="https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/von-hippel-lindau-syndrome" target="_blank">Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome</a> (VHL disease), known to involve exaggerated production levels of EPO, and an excess of blood vessels. He had a hunch it was something in cells' then-mysterious oxygen-sensing mechanism malfunctioning.</p>
Why this is important<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTIzMjgxOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTA4NTc2MH0.qXRXfOmDcFZZ1KEFYY8uDvh_I28uF0xeYz8sp1gOcs4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=31%2C160%2C31%2C159&height=700" id="4ad8a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="099ce745ea22e587dea1b7372c2b58da" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Daniel Prudek /Shutterstock<p>Cells need oxygen to live, and Earth's air-breathing organisms have developed ways to ensure their cells get the amount of oxygen they need. At high altitudes, for example, we produce more red blood cells to accommodate the relative scarcity of air and combat the onset of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/hypoxia-hypoxemia#1" target="_blank">hypoxia</a>. While a lack of oxygen can be deadly, so too can<a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-oxygen-dilemma/" target="_blank"> too much</a> — it may be that an excess of oxygen can be exploited by some cancers, among other issues.<br></p><p>Human bodies have developed a couple of ways to monitor and respond to changes in oxygen levels. The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carotid_body" target="_blank">carotid body</a> associated with the large vessels on both sides of the neck have unique cells that sense oxygen levels, and, as noted above, the body produces more oxygen-carrying cells to maximize delivery of what O2 there is when there's not enough. Production of these oxygen-carrying cells is triggered by the production of erythropoietin (EPO) — it's this system that the Nobel winners explored.</p>
A technical glimpse into a three-part puzzle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTIzMDI2My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MzgyMjcwN30.T6U_dPp2us_C8no9A416UrxjqluYshjyLjwpajdVOjE/img.jpg?width=980" id="b0bac" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="065d74bc059cb7dc85b6af52a11b3b49" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: DragonTiger8/Shutterstock<p>The research that led to the Nobel-awarded discovery began back in the 1990s when, Semenza started studying the EPO gene to learn how its production was being controlled. He identified a DNA segment near the EPO gene that appeared to be regulating its production in response to hypoxia. Most interestingly, this DNA, also spotted around the same time by Ratcliffe, wasn't only in kidney cells known to produce EPO, but in <em>all</em> cells.</p><p> Eventually Semenza discovered a protein complex that binds to the DNA depending on the amount of oxygen available, and named it hypoxia-inducible factor, or HIF. HIF turned out to be a pair of different DNA-binding proteins, HIF-1α and ARNT.</p><p>The amount of HIF-1α increases when oxygen levels are low, apparently due to an oxygen-related reduction in the effect of <em>ubiquitin,</em> a peptide that normally would bind with and quickly decay HIF-1α.</p><p>As a result of his immersion in Von Hippel-Lindau research, Ratcliffe discovered why a lack of oxygen could dampen ubiquitin's bite: HIF-1α is tagged for destruction by ubiquitin via the VHL gene. (An absence of the VHL gene causes the disease by allowing the presence of too much HIF-1α.)</p><p>This implied an unknown interaction between the VHL gene and HIF-1α and Kaelin and Ratcliffe worked it out. They realized that at normal oxygen levels, two hydroxyl groups were added to two locations in HIF-1α. Aided by oxygen-sensitive enzymes, VHL thus binds to HIF-1α and moderates the production of EPO and the number red blood cells. With either too little or too much oxygen, this balance is upset.</p><p>In all, this daisy-chained sets of research has given us a new insight about our bodies — specifically, of the series of molecular events that constantly help our cells assess and respond to changing levels of oxygen. "Textbook discovery," indeed.</p>