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Meet the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Science

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Medicine

Bruce A. Beutler
Jules A. Hoffmann
Ralph M. Steinman

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2011 was divided, one half jointly to Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann “for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity” and the other half to Ralph M. Steinman “for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity”.


Physics

Saul Perlmutter
Brian P Schmidt
Adam G Riess

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011 was divided, one half awarded to Saul Perlmutter, the other half jointly to Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae”.


Chemistry

Dan Shechtman

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 was awarded to Dan Shechtman “for the discovery of quasicrystals”.

Old Kilo Loses Weight With Age!

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Photo: Christopher Griffith; kilogram models by Jim Zivic

“The official US kilogram — the physical prototype against which all weights in the United States are calibrated — cannot be touched by human hands except in rare circumstances. Sealed beneath a bell jar and locked behind three heavy doors in a laboratory 60 feet under the headquarters of the National Institute of Standards and Technology 20 miles outside Washington, DC, the shiny metal cylinder is, in many ways, better protected than the president…

The American prototype is one of some four dozen such national standards around the world, and each of those, in turn, is accountable to an even higher authority: a regal artifact called the international prototype kilogram. Familiarly known as Le Grand K and held in a vault just outside of Paris under three bell jars, it dates back to the 1880s, when it was forged by the British metallurgist George Matthey from an alloy of nine-tenths platinum and one-tenth iridium.

Aside from a yearly ceremonial peek inside its vault, which can be unlocked only with three keys held by three different officials, the prototype goes unmolested for decades. Yet every 40 years or so, protocol requires that it be washed with alcohol, dried with a chamois cloth, given a steam bath, allowed to air dry, and then weighed against the freshly scrubbed national standards, all transported to France.

It is also compared to six témoins (witnesses), nominally identical cylinders that are stored in the vault alongside the prototype. The instruments used to make these comparisons are phenomenally precise, capable of measuring differences of 0.0000001 percent, or one part in 1 billion.

But comparisons since the 1940s have revealed a troublesome drift. Relative to the témoins and to the national standards, Le Grand K has been losing weight — or, by the definition of mass under the metric system, the rest of the universe has been getting fatter. The most recent comparison, in 1988, found a discrepancy as large as five-hundredths of a milligram, a bit less than the weight of a dust speck, between Le Grand K and its official underlings.”

Graphene “Big Mac” Sandwich May Replace Silicon Chips

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

“The world’s thinnest, strongest and most conductive material, discovered in 2004 at the University of Manchester by Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov, has the potential to revolutionize material science.

Demonstrating the remarkable properties of graphene won the two scientists the Nobel Prize for Physics last year and UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has just announced plans for a £50m graphene research hub to be set up.

Now, writing in the journal Nature Physics, the University of Manchester team have for the first time demonstrated how graphene inside electronic circuits will probably look like in the future.

By sandwiching two sheets of graphene with another two-dimensional material, boron nitrate, the team created the graphene ‘Big Mac’ – a four-layered structure which could be the key to replacing the silicon chip in computers.

Because there are two layers of graphene completed surrounded by the boron nitrate, this has allowed the researchers for the first time to observe how graphene behaves when unaffected by the environment.”