Thaler, Famed for ‘Nudge’ Theory, Wins Nobel Economics Prize

University of Chicago’s Richard H. Thaler, one of the founders of behavioural economics and finance, was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics for shedding light on how human weaknesses such as a lack of rationality and self-control can ultimately affect markets.

The 72-year-old co-author of the 2008 best-seller “Nudge,” has “built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Monday.

“By exploring the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control, he has shown how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes,”

His “Nudge” theory, outlined along with former White House adviser Cass Sunstein, suggests small incentives can prod people into making certain decisions. His work has informed politicians looking for ways to influence voters and shape societies at a time when budget deficits limited their scope to spend. Former U.S. President Barack Obama and ex-U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron both appointed teams to study if behavioural economics could be used to save their governments money.

For example, writing to Britons to inform them that most people in their town had already paid their taxes was found to speed up payments. People were also found to be more likely to insulate their attics if they were offered help clearing them.

Thaler also made a cameo appearance in the 2015 film “The Big Short,” sitting alongside the actress Selena Gomez as they played blackjack.

Thaler developed the theory of “mental accounting,” explaining how people make financial decisions by creating separate accounts in their minds, focusing on the narrow impact rather than the overall effect.

His research on “fairness,” which showed how consumer concerns may stop firms from raising prices in periods of high demand, but not in times of rising costs, has also been influential, according to the Swedish Academy. He shed light on how people succumb to short-term temptations, which is why many people fail to plan and save for old age.

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Gravitational Waves

Just like ripples in the water, there are ripples(Waves) in the space created when there is a movement of objects with mass. They are generated as a result of gravitational interaction and is propagated from their source at the speed of light. They contain energy transmitted as gravitational radiations similar to the electromagnetic radiations.

They were predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 on the basis of his theory of general relativity.

Gravitational-wave astronomy is a branch of observational astronomy which uses gravitational waves to collect observational data about sources of detectable gravitational waves such as binary star systems composed of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; and events such as supernovae, and the formation of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang.

The LIGO and Virgo Scientific Collaboration announced that they had made the first observation of gravitational waves in 2015 September. The announcement was made in 2016. The gravity waves originated from a pair of merging black holes. The collision happened 1.3 billion years ago. But, the ripples didn’t make it to Earth until 2015. After the initial announcement, the LIGO instruments detected two more confirmed, and one potential, gravitational wave events.

The most powerful gravitational waves are created when objects move at very high speeds. Some examples of events that could cause a gravitational wave are:

  • when a star explodes asymmetrically (called a supernova)
  • when two big stars orbit each other
  • when two black holes orbit each other and merge

The types of objects that create gravitational waves are far away from earth. And sometimes, these events only cause small, weak gravitational waves. The waves are then very weak by the time they reach Earth. This makes gravitational waves hard to detect.

Two Nobels

  • In 1993, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for measurements of the Hulse-Taylor binary star system that suggests gravitational waves are more than mathematical anomalies.
  • In 2017, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish for their role in the detection of gravitational waves

LIGO

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a large-scale physics experiment and observatory to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to develop gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool. LIGO is made up of two observatories: one in Louisiana and one in Washington. Each observatory has two long “arms” that are each more than 2 miles (4 kilometres) long.

When a gravitational wave passes by Earth, it squeezes and stretches space. LIGO can detect this squeezing and stretching.  A passing gravitational wave causes the length of the arms to change slightly. The observatory uses lasers, mirrors, and extremely sensitive instruments to detect these tiny changes.

Before this, just about everything we knew about the universe came from studying waves of light. Now we have a new way to learn about the universe—by studying waves of gravity. Gravitational waves will help us learn many new things about our universe.

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2017 Nobel Peace Prize

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a group campaigning for nuclear disarmament — a decision that comes amid growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea and as President Donald Trump reportedly considers ending a nuclear deal with Iran.

The Nobel Committee honoured the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for drawing attention to “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and for its efforts toward nuclear prohibition.

ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from around 100 different countries around the globe.

The Nobel committee said ICAN has given the movement toward the world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour.

The Nobel committee emphasized that the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states and is calling upon these states to initiate negotiations to the gradual elimination of the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Trump is reportedly expected to announce that he will decertify the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which he has previously called “an embarrassment to the United States.” And the escalating war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has cast new fears of a possible nuclear conflict.

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2017 Nobel prize in chemistry

Biophysicists Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for inventing new and better ways to see molecules.

The Nobel committee praised the trio in its announcement Wednesday “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.” Cryo-electron microscopy is “a cool method for imaging the materials of life,” said Nobel committee member Göran K. Hansson from Stockholm. The development allows scientists to visualize proteins and other biological molecules at the atomic level.

Dubochet, 75, a Swiss citizen, is a professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Frank, 77, born in Germany and now a U.S. citizen, is a Columbia University professor in New York. Henderson, 72, of Scotland, works at Cambridge University in Britain.

To see the structure of molecules at ultrahigh resolution, scientists must hold molecules in place in their natural configuration. Other microscopic techniques, such as X-ray crystallography, are far more rigid than cryo-electron microscopy.

What is cryo-electron microscopy?

“Cryo”, short for cryogenic refers to very low temperatures. Though the actual temperature is not well defined, it is below minus 150°C. In the context of electron microscopy, it refers to the fact that the object to be imaged is frozen to such low temperatures to facilitate being studied under the beam of the electron microscope.

This method is so effective that even in recent times, it has been used to image the elusive Zika virus: When researchers began to suspect that the Zika virus was causing the epidemic of brain-damaged newborns in Brazil, they turned to cryo-EM to visualise the virus. Over a few months, three dimensional (3D) images of the virus at atomic resolution were generated and researchers could start searching for potential targets for pharmaceuticals.

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Nobel Price in Medicine

US-born scientists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling our biological clocks.

The mechanisms help explain issues such as why people travelling long distances over several time zones often suffer jet lag and they have wider implications for health such as increased risk for certain diseases.
“[The three scientists’] discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronised with the Earth’s revolutions

The laureates used fruit flies to isolate a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm and showed how this gene encoded a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night and degrades during the day.
Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes awarded each year. The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901.

Nobel medicine laureates have included scientific greats such as Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, and Karl Landsteiner, whose identification of separate blood types opened the way to carrying out safe transfusions.

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Nobel prize in physics awarded for discovery of gravitational waves

Three American physicists have won the Nobel prize in physics for the first observations of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago.

Rainer Weiss has been awarded one half of the 9m Swedish kronor (£825,000) prize, announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Tuesday. Kip Thorne and Barry Barish will share the other half of the prize.

Analysis ‘A new way to study our universe’: what gravitational waves mean for future science

The 2017 physics Nobel prize was awarded for the detection of gravitational waves. But what else could be revealed now that this discovery has been made?

All three scientists have played leading roles in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or Ligo, experiment, which in 2015 made the first historic observation of gravitational waves triggered by the violent merger of two black holes a billion light-years away.

Prof Olga Botner, a member of the Nobel committee for physics, described this as “a discovery that shook the world”.

The Ligo detections finally confirmed Einstein’s century-old prediction that during cataclysmic events the fabric of spacetime itself can be stretched and squeezed, sending gravitational tremors out across the universe like ripples on a pond.

The direct detection of gravitational waves also opens a new vista on the “dark” side of the cosmos, to times and places from which no optical light escapes. This includes just fractions of a second after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, when scientists believe gravitational waves left a permanent imprint on the cosmos that may still be perceptible today.

The notion that space-time is malleable was first predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. But Einstein himself was unsure whether this was merely a mathematical illusion, and concluded that, in any case, the signal would be so tiny that it would “never play a role in science”.

It was a significant career gamble then, when in the mid-1970s Weiss and Thorne, who is now the Feynman professor of theoretical physics at California Institute of Technology, began the decades-long quest to detect gravitational waves, which they believed could revolutionise our understanding of the universe.
Weiss designed a detector, called a laser-based interferometer, that he believed would be capable of measuring a signal so tiny that it could easily be masked by the background murmur of the ocean waves. Thorne, a theorist, began making crucial predictions of what the signal of a gravitational wave emanating from two black holes colliding would actually look like.

Independently, Ronald Drever, a Scottish physicist, also began building prototype detectors in Glasgow and after moving to Caltech, he, Weiss and Thorne formed a trio that laid the groundwork for Ligo. Drever died in March after suffering from dementia, and while the Nobel prize is not normally awarded posthumously, he is widely recognised as having made a decisive contribution.

Barry Barish, a former particle physicist at California Institute of Technology (now an Emeritus professor) came to the project at a much later stage but is often credited for making Ligo happen. When he took over as its second director in 1994, the project was at risk of being cancelled. Barish turned things around and saw it through to construction.

In the end, detection required a peerless collaboration between experimentalists, who built one of the most sophisticated detectors on Earth, and theorists, who figured out what a signal from two black holes colliding would actually look like.

Ligo’s twin detectors, two pairs of 4km-long perpendicular pipes, one in Hanford, Washington state, the other in Livingston, Louisiana, are so sensitive that they can spot a distortion of a thousandth of the diameter of an atomic nucleus across a 4km length of a laser beam.

The phenomenon detected was the collision of two giant black holes, one 35 times the mass of the sun, the other slightly smaller, 1.3 billion light-years away. At the start of the 20-millisecond “chirp” in the signal, the two objects were found to be circling each other 30 times a second. By the end, the rate had accelerated to 250 times a second before meeting in a violent collision.

Since then, three further black hole collisions have been made and rumours are afoot that the consortium may have also observed the collision of a pair of neutron stars. In the future, scientists hope to supernovae, pulsars and the insides of stars as they collapse into black holes. A network of gravitational-wave observatories could even allow us to gaze back to almost the beginning of time itself.

Last year’s prize went to three British physicists for their work on exotic states of matter that may pave the way for quantum computers and other revolutionary technologies.

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Gravitational Waves

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