Tuesday 19 October 2021
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HomeEducationPhysicsNobel Prize for Physics goes to scientists working on complex physical systems

Nobel Prize for Physics goes to scientists working on complex physical systems

This year's Physics Nobel recognises new methods for describing complex systems and predicting their behaviour, the Nobel Committee said


The 2021 Nobel Prize for physics has been awarded jointly to Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi “for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems”.

“This year’s Physics Nobel recognises new methods for describing complex systems and predicting their long-term behaviour. One complex system of vital importance to humankind is Earth’s climate,” the Nobel Committee said.

Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann have been jointly awarded one half of prize the “for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming.”

Giorgio Parisi has been awarded the other half “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”

Manabe is of American and Japanese mixed lineage; Klaus Hasselmann hails from while Parisi is from Italy.

The award has in the past honoured discoveries about fundamental forces of nature and cosmic phenomena.

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $ 1.14 million). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.

List of 10 most recent Nobel Physics Prize winners

2020Roger Penrose (Britain), Reinhard Genzel (Germany) and Andrea Ghez (US) for their research into black holes.
2019James Peebles (Canada-US) for discoveries explaining the universe’s evolution after the Big Bang, and Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz (Switzerland) for the first discovery of an exoplanet.
2018Arthur Ashkin (US), Gerard Mourou (France) and Donna Strickland (Canada) for inventions in the laser field used for advanced precision instruments in corrective eye surgery and industry.
2017Barry Barish, Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss (US) for the discovery of gravitational waves, a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity.
2016David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz (Britain) for their study of strange phenomena in unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films.
2015Takaaki Kajita (Japan) and Arthur McDonald (Canada) for their work on neutrinos.
2014Isamu Akasaki (Japan), Hiroshi Amano (Japan) and Shuji Nakamura (US) for their work on LED lamps.
2013Peter Higgs (Britain) and Francois Englert (Belgium) for their work on the so-called Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that gives mass to other particles.
2012Serge Haroche (France) and David Wineland (US) for experimental methods used to measure and manipulate quantum systems.
2011Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess (US) and Brian Schmidt (US-Australian) for discovering the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Last year, the physics prize had gone to Roger Penrose of Britain, Reinhard Genzel of and Andrea Ghez of the US, three pioneers in the field of black holes, from which nothing, not even light, can escape.

The medicine prize kicked off the 2021 Nobel season on Monday, going to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for breakthroughs that paved the way for the treatment of chronic pain.

Nobel awards in numbers

Prize categories6
Awarded women57
Awarded organisations25
Youngest laureate17
Oldest laureate97

Hungary’s Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman of the US — who pioneered the technology behind the mRNA vaccines against Covid-19 and who were among the favourites for Monday’s medicine prize — could have a shot at the prize announced on 6 October.

How Nobel Prize has been awarded over the years

Between 1901 and 2020, the Nobel Prizes and the prize in economic sciences were awarded 603 times.

Nobel PrizeNumber of prizesNumber of laureatesAwarded to one laureateShared by two laureatesShared by three laureates
Economic sciences528625207

The two most closely watched prizes, for literature and peace, will follow on 7 and 8 October.

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