Sometimes, in the name of progress, doctors have nobody to test their medical theories on but themselves. And in these five cases--though several of them perished from the self-inflicted experiments--that testing was warranted, leading to key advances in the treatment of yellow fever, blunt force impact, ulcers, and more.
First they were thought to be impossible on Earth, then when they were grown in the lab they were thought to be so novel that they earned their discoverer a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Now, it turns out the quasicrystals--unusually structured crystals that break several rules of crystalline symmetry and exhibit strange physical properties--unearthed in Russia’s Koryak mountains a couple of years ago are probably from outer space.
For today's Nobel Laureates in Physics, it was pretty much a matter of when, not if. When the three winners and their teams announced back in 1998 that the universe was not only expanding, but accelerating, they shook cosmology to its core: Their findings said the universe would end not with a bang, but a whimper.
And the question of why — the mysterious force of dark energy, which accounts for about three-fourths of the mass-energy of the entire universe — is one of the greatest questions in modern science.
[UPDATE 6 p.m.] Immune cells that protect us from the dangers of this microbe planet are behind this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine. Two of the three winners discovered receptor proteins that can recognize microbial invaders, activating the innate immune response. The third discovered dendritic cells, which serve as surveillance cells and can switch on the body's adaptive immune response.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics today to University of Manchester professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for their work isolating graphene from graphite and identifying its behavior. Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon, is the thinnest, strongest material ever discovered. It conducts heat and electricity, and despite being one atom thick, is so dense even helium cannot pass through it. As the Swedish Academy of Sciences said in the Nobel Prize announcement: "Carbon, the basis of all known life on earth, has surprised us once again."
Rounding out the 2009 science Nobel Prizes are Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz, and Ada E. Yonath, who will receive the prize in chemistry for their work on an atomic-scale map of the ribosome.
Ribosomes are the cellular organelle responsible for assembling amino acids into proteins. If DNA is the blueprint, ribosomes are the construction workers. Ribosomes themselves are composed of a combination of RNA and specialized proteins.
We live in a world designed by Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle, and George E. Smith. Their work on the physics of light made possible the fiber optic cables carrying this web page to your phone, and the digital camera on the other side. And on December 10th, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will award them the Nobel Prize in physics for their work.