With the Ig Nobels behind us, CW Towers now waits with bated breath for the chemistry Nobel. The prize for medicine and physiology has already been handed to John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for their work on understanding what makes a stem cell different to a mature, adult cell and how an adult cell can be transformed into a stem cell. This work could help produce a limitless supply of stem cells for therapeutic purposes without some of the ethical concerns that have dogged this promising medical technology. Supplies of stem cells are currently mostly derived from human embryos.

Today was the turn of physics. And that prize was taken by David Wineland and Serge Haroche for their work controlling quantum systems. Their research is seen as a first step on the road to creating quantum computers that would use ions or atoms as quantum bits. These quantum computers would calculate not just in ones and zeros, as conventional computers do, but have an extra state, a superposition that is both a one and a zero at the same time. This extra state, which relies on the weirdness of the way the quantum world works, holds the promise of making quantum computers vastly more powerful than any even the fastest binary supercomputer in existence.

Out of the sciences this leaves just the chemistry prize to go tomorrow morning – you can watch it live on our blog. And there are plenty of predictions out there of who’s in with a chance of taking home this prestigious gong.

Paul Bracher over at ChemBark has also put together his predictions and added a few more as he’s still smarting over not having Dan Shechtman’s quasicrystals down on his list for last year’s chemistry Nobel! He makes his predictions on a whole host of criteria, including the all-important gut feeling. Clearly he thinks it’s the biologists turn (as they don’t have their own Nobel prize) and has given nuclear hormone signalling the shortest odds.

Every year Thomson Reuters also puts together its predictions by doing some number crunching using Web of Knowledge to pick out those researchers whose work has been cited the most. One of the guys behind the Thomson Reuters picks has claimed that it has the best record of anyone at picking winners – although just not in the year they make those predictions! They’ve added gold catalysis, photocatalytic properties of titanium dioxide and quantum dots to their list for this year’s prize. Thomson’s says that after 11 years they’ve successfully predicted 26 Nobel laureates to date (although this also includes the other Nobel prizes) – we’ll have to wait and see how they do this year.

At the Curious Wavefunction, a whole host of predictions have been made, although he hasn’t put odds to them. Nuclear receptors again feature high up on the list. Other possibles include DNA fingerprinting, the synthesis of cholesterol-busting statin drugs and the discovery of chaperone proteins that help other proteins fold correctly.

There’s still time to have a flutter, so have a look through the list and make your own predictions! Who do you think will win the chemistry Nobel prize?

Patrick Walter

 

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