Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Gurdon and Yamanaka
The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent. John B. Gurdon discovered in 1962 that the specialization of cells is reversible. In a classic experiment, he replaced the immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole. The DNA of the mature cell still had all the information needed to develop all cells in the frog. Shinya Yamanaka discovered more than 40 years later, in 2006, how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. Surprisingly, by introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body. Sir John B. Gurdon was born in 1933 in Dippenhall, UK. He received his Doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1960 and was a postdoctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology. He joined Cambridge University, UK, in 1972 and has served as Professor of Cell Biology and Master of Magdalene College. Gurdon is currently at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge. Shinya Yamanaka was born in Osaka, Japan in 1962. He obtained his MD in 1987 at Kobe University and trained as an orthopaedic surgeon before switching to basic research. Yamanaka received his PhD at Osaka University in 1993, after which he worked at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. Yamanaka is currently Professor at Kyoto University and also affiliated with the Gladstone Institute.

2012 Nobel Prize in Physics to French American duo
A French American duo gets to share the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics. It is for inventing methods to observe the bizarre properties of the quantum world, research that has led to the construction of extremely precise clocks and helped scientist take the first steps towards building super fast computers. Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the US have together opened the door to new experiments in quantum physics by showing to observe individual quantum particles while preserving their quantum properties. A quantum particle is one that is isolated from everything else. In this situation, an atom or electron or photon takes on strange properties. It can be in two places at once, for example. It behaves in some ways like a wave. But these properties are instantly changed when it interacts with something else, such as when somebody observes it. The Swedish Academy said the following in a statement: "Their ground-breaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of superfast computer based on quantum physics. The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time."

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Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 to Americans
Two Americans are the recipients of this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, made groundbreaking discoveries, mainly in the 1980s, on an important family of receptors, known as G-protein-coupled receptors. About half of all medications act on these receptors, including beta blockers and antihistamines, so learning about them will help scientists come up with better drugs. "They work as a gateway to the cell," Lefkowitz told a news conference in Stockholm by phone. "As a result they are crucial ... to regulate almost every known physiological process with humans." Lefkowitz is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Kobilka worked for Lefkowitz at Duke before transferring to Stanford University School of Medicine in California, where he is now a professor. Lefkowitz said he was fast asleep when the Nobel committee called, but he didn't hear it because he was wearing ear plugs. So his wife picked up the phone. "She said, 'There's a call here for you from Stockholm,'" Lefkowitz told The Associated Press. "I knew they weren't calling to find out what the weather is like in Durham today." Kobilka said he found out around 2:30 a.m., after the Nobel committee called his home twice. He said he didn't get to the phone the first time, but when he picked up the second time, he spoke to five members of the committee. "They passed the phone around and congratulated me," Kobilka told AP. I guess they do that so you actually believe them. When one person calls you, it can be a joke, but when five people with convincing Swedish accents call you, then it isn't a joke."

Nobel Prize in Literature to Mo Yan
The 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded Chinese author Mo Yan. The Swedish Academy, which selects the winners of the prestigious award, on Thursday praised Mo's "hallucinatoric realism" saying it "merges folk tales, history and the contemporary." Yan is described as "one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of all Chinese writers". He is known in the West for two of his novels which were the basis of the film “Red Sorghum”. As with the other Nobel Prizes, the prize is worth 8 million kronor, or about $1.2 million. Yan was born in 1955 in the Northeast Gaomi Township in Shandong province to a family of farmers. He left school during the Cultural Revolution to work in a factory that produced oil. He joined the People's Liberation Army at age twenty, and began writing while he was still a soldier, in 1981. Three years later, he was given a teaching position at the Department of Literature in the Army's Cultural Academy. "Mo Yan", which means "don't speak" in Chinese, is a pen name. His given name is Guan Moye.

Nobel Peace Prize to EU
The Norwegian Nobel Committee is awarding the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union for having built peace and reconciliation among enemies for over six decades. According to the New York Times, the award surprised people who noted deep strains between Germany and other European nations over Berlin’s insistence on austerity measures that have brought pain to many Europeans, particularly in Greece and Spain. Thousands of protesters turned out in Athens earlier this week to demonstrate against a visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. However, Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the panel awarding the prize, said it was a signal focusing on the union’s historical role binding France and Germany together after World War II and its perceived impact in spreading reconciliation and democracy beyond the Iron Curtain that once divided Europe and to the Balkans. “The stabilizing part played by the E. U. has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” he said. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said the award proved that the European body was “something very precious.” “It is justified recognition for a unique project that works for the benefit of its citizens and also for the benefit of the world,” he said. “The award today by the Nobel committee shows that, even in these difficult times, the European Union remains an inspiration for countries and people all over the world and that the international community needs a strong European Union.” It’s worth noting that though Sweden is a member of the EU, Norway is not.

2012 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2012 was awarded jointly to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design"