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Nobel Winners Announced

Recipients of the 2011 Nobel Prizes were announced the week of October 3. The winners in medicine were honored for their work in immunology, as reported on Tomorrow’s Table. Steinman “discovered a new class of cell, known as dendritic cells, which are key activators of the adaptive immune system;” shockingly, he died a few days before the announcement. On We Beasties, Kevin Bonham questions the significance of Beutler’s contribution, saying “the conceptual groundwork for its importance in the immune response had already been laid” by a researcher named Janeway. Kevin continues, “giving the reward to Beutler, especially in light of the efforts he took to discredit Janeway and his contribution is a bit of a slap in the face.”

On Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel offers a lesson in Nobel Prize-winning physics, explaining how researchers discovered that most of the universe is accelerating away from us. Ethan writes, “it’s hard to argue that there’s any discovery in physics over the last 15 years that’s been more profound and deserving of this award.” Steinn Sigurðsson explains, “the prize is specifically for a series of papers, beginning in 1998, measuring the redshift and luminosity distance of a sample of type Ia supernovae” and indicating the presence of dark energy.

Finally, on Greg Laden’s Blog, we learn the winner in Chemistry also overturned scientific consensus. While studying “a mixture of aluminum and manganese that had been rapidly cooled from molten to solid state,” he observed 10-fold symmetry in the arrangement of the atoms and a pattern that did not repeat itself. Now crystallographers have a new term for the impossible: a quasicrystal. And on Confessions of a Science Librarian, John DuPuis complains about the annual prognostications of Thomson Reuters, a corporation who hints at “at least a little bit of a causal link between citation counts, or as they call it ‘citation impact,’ and winning the Nobel Prize.” Confusing correlation with causation may be “a great way to promote their citation reporting and analysis products,” but they still whiffed it in all three scientific categories.