Three scientists win Nobel Prize in Physics

Three scientists-Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi- have jointly won the coveted Nobel Prize in Physics, holding up their respective works on prediction of changes in global temperature and discovery of systemic planetary disorder.

Whereas Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann jointly worked on the ‘physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming; Giorgio Parisi discovered the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.

The three scientists shared the award as their studies shared a common theme of ‘chaotic and apparently random phenomena’.   Complex systems are characterised by randomness and disorder, and because of this are difficult to understand and predict – especially long-term. 

This is one of the most prestigious prizes in science, and in the past honoured discoveries about fundamental forces of nature and cosmic phenomena.

The Nobel Prize for science comes with cash reward of £841,000 or $1.14 million and a gold medal which would now be shared by the joint winners.

The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895. 

Nobel made the bequest after reading a premature obituary that called him out for his work in the sale of arms through his company Bofors, which was built off the back of his many patents, including for dynamite.  

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the latest recipient on Tuesday from its stunning Session Hall in Stockholm.

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In their work, Syukuro Manabe demonstrated how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to increased temperatures at the surface. He had in the 1960s led development of physical models of the Earth’s climate and was the first person to explore the interaction between radiation balance and the vertical transport of air masses. His work laid the foundation for the development of climate models. 

About ten years later, Klaus Hasselmann created a model that links together weather and climate, thus answering the question of why climate models can be reliable despite weather being changeable and chaotic. 

He also developed methods for identifying specific signals, fingerprints, that both natural phenomena and human activities imprint in the climate. His methods have been used to prove that the increased temperature in the atmosphere is due to human emissions of carbon dioxide.

In a parallel work around the 1980s on atomic patterns, Giorgio Parisidiscovered hidden patterns in disordered complex materials. His discoveries are among the most important contributions to the theory of complex systems. They make it possible to understand and describe many different and apparently entirely random materials and phenomena.

They make it possible to understand and describe many different and apparently entirely random materials and phenomena, not only in physics but also in other, very different areas, such as mathematics, biology, neuroscience and machine learning. 

After the announcement, Parisi said that ‘it’s very urgent that we take very strong decisions and move at a very strong pace’ in tackling climate change. ‘It’s clear for future generations that we have to act now,’ he added.

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Last year, the prize went to American Andrea Ghez, Roger Penrose of Britain and Reinhard Genzel of Germany for their research into black holes. 

Chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, Thors Hans Hansson, says: “The discoveries being recognised this year demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation, based on a rigorous analysis of observations.”

“This year’s Laureates have all contributed to us gaining deeper insight into the properties and evolution of complex physical systems.”

However many would like to know more about the scientists pointed out by their remarkable works in 2021.

Professor Manabe is the Senior Meteorologist at Princeton University in the US who pioneered the use of computers to simulate global climate change and natural climate variations. He was born in 1931 in Shingu, Japan and holds a 1957 PhD from the University of Tokyo. 

In the 1960s, he led the development of physical models of the Earth’s climate and was the first person to explore the interaction between radiation balance and the vertical transport of air masses. His work laid the foundation for the development of current climate models.

Professor Klaus Hasselmann works at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, in Hamburg, Germany, where he specializes in oceanography and climate modeling. He developed the Hasselmann model of climate variability, which can be used to predict changes in the climate over time.

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Hasselmann was born in 1931 in Hamburg, Germany and gained his PhD in 1957 from the University of Göttingen, Germany. His methods have been used to prove that the increased temperature in the atmosphere is due to human emissions of carbon dioxide. 

Professor Parisi works at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy where he works as a theoretical physicist, specializing in quantum field theory, statistical mechanics and complex systems.

Born 1948 in Rome, Italy, Parisi gained a PhD in 1970 from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. His best known contributions to science are equations that describe dynamic scaling of growing interfaces, and the study of whirling flocks of birds. 

The findings are among the most important contributions to the theory of complex systems as they make it possible to understand and describe many different and apparently entirely random materials and phenomena.

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize in physiology or medicine to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for identifying how the body converts physical sensations into electrical signals in the nervous system. The duo is credited with ‘unlocking one of the secrets of nature’ by the Nobel Committee.  

The pandemic continues to haunt the Nobel ceremonies, which are usually full of old-world pomp and glamour. 

The banquet in Stockholm has been postponed for a second successive year amid lingering worries about the virus and international travel.

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