Here’s 2014’s Nobel prize winners in physics, chemistry and medicine. Last year was a great one for science, but some people deserve outstanding recognition for the amount they have done to advance their fields.
1. Physics – Developing the White LED Bulb
This was a breakthrough discovery and the solution to a problem that had plagued physicists for decades. Light Emitting Diode, or LED is a type of light source that has been around for years, but until now we have only been able to make red and green ones. They work by emitting light as electrons pass through layers of crystal and inorganic material.
To make white light, red, green and blue LEDs had to be emitting light at the same time, and this was difficult as blue light had be of a certain wavelength.
Thankfully, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura found a way to create the blue LED using a crystal and gallium nitrate to allow a flow of electrons through, thus creating the white LED bulb. This has replaced Edison as the top light bulb invention as it converts electricity directly into light, saving an enormous amount of energy and lasting way longer
2. Chemistry – Super Resolves Flourescence Microscopy
This sounds super complicated, and it is. Up until this new research the optical microscopes we use in labs can only view objects as small as 0.2 micro meters, at half the wavelength of light. This basically means we can view individual cells but not whats inside them.
Florescent microscopy has brought this field of study much further, in that it allows us to view certain parts of cells when they have been manipulated to be fluorescent. By using pulses of light to view individual molecules within a cell, American scientists Eric Betzig and William Moerner eventually created a super high resolution image of a cell, all of it’s components and the interactions between them. Using just visible light.
3. Medicine – Animal Brains Contain and Internal GPS System
This one goes to John O’keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser for discovering that our brains contain an inner GPS system that tells animals where they are in relation to their environment.
O’keefe discovered something he called ‘place cells’ in rats. Found in the hippocampus region of the brain these neurons were activated in a particular place in an environment, like the corner of a room. These neurons appear to be responsible for building and storing mental maps.
After this May-Britt and Edvard Moser conducted a similar experiment with rats, but this time discovered what they termed ‘grid cells’, found in the Entorhinal cortex of the brain. These neurons were found to fire when passing and looking at a certain location, creating a sense of self within the environment. Essentially we create a map in our brain and it tells us where we are in relation to everything else.