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Nobel Prize ceremony concludes in Stockholm

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf has handed over this year's prizes to the Nobel laureates at Stockholm's Concert Hall, watched over by more than 1,500 honoured guests.

Nobel Prize ceremony concludes in Stockholm

The laureates and guests were clad in white tie and tails for men and evening gowns for women.

The Nobel Literature Prize was handed to Mo Yan, one of China’s leading writers of the past half-century, who was honoured for a body of work that the Swedish Academy said mixes folk tales, history and the contemporary.

Before handing over the literature prize to Mo, Per Wästberg of the Swedish Academy referenced the difficult conditions in the prizewinner’s homeland.

“The brutality of 20th century China has never been described so nakedly,” Wästberg told guests at the Concert Hall, adding that Mo was able to carry an entire human life “on the tip of his pen” before he accepted the prize to a thunderous ovation.

Mo has walked a tightrope during his stay in Stockholm, with some pundits supporting his own claims that he is “independent” and others casting him as a Beijing stooge.

CLICK HERE TO SEE IF SWEDES WILL TUNE INTO MONDAY’S CEREMONY AND BANQUET

The Medicine Prize was presented to Shinya Yamanaka of Japan and John Gurdon of Britain for work in cell programming, a frontier that has nourished dreams of replacement tissue for people crippled by disease.

Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the United States were meanwhile awarded the Physics Prize for pioneering optical experiments in quantum physics that could one day open the way to revolutionary computers.

Two Americans, Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka, picked up the chemistry prize for identifying a class of cell receptor, yielding vital insights into how the body works at the molecular level.

Finally, US scholars Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley collected the economics prize for their work on how to best match supply and demand that has potential applications in organ donation, education and on the internet.

The proceedings began on Monday afternoon once the king and queen arrived with their children and son-in-law Prince Daniel.

Queen Silvia had chosen a light violet gown with embroidered, sheer sleeves.

Her eldest, Crown Princess Victoria, went for sequins again, swapping last year’s midnight blue gown for one in emerald green, with discrete capped sleeves. She was seated in the front row alongside her parents on stage.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT CROWN PRINCESS VICTORIA HAS WORN OVER THE YEARS

Princess Madeleine, sitting behind her parents, opted for a light grey, strapless gown with discrete, asymmetric pleats on the bodice.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT PRINCESS MADELEINE HAS WORN OVER THE YEARS

Prince Carl Philip, meanwhile, appeared to have grown a beard. Prince Daniel sported his customary slick-back hairdo, which he adopted after he met the Crown Princess.

The stage itself was also decked out. Behind Alfred Nobel’s bust, the wall was covered with more than 6,000 flowers, this year in pastel pinks and vibrant yellow.

For the past 40 years, a florist in the Stockholm suburb Hässelby has taken responsibility for the flower arrangements.

Yet this year’s ceremony risked being slightly less lavish than in previous years, as the financial crisis has tentacles reaching as far as the Nobel Foundation.

This year’s festivities are costing 20 percent less than in 2011, having been shrunk from 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) to 8 million. But the budget should not affect the quality of the party, as most contractors have given the foundation a discount.

“Most of them have been prepared to give us a helping hand for this to continue,” Nobel Foundation head Lars Heikensten told the TT news agency.

As the award ceremony drew to a close accompanied by music composed by Hugo Alfvén, and once the royal family had exited the stage, the laureates’ spouses, children and grandchildren flooded the stage to celebrate together.

The Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma, and eight million kronor, to be shared if there is more than one recipient.

The laureates were also to be honoured at a formal dinner banquet later in the evening attended by the royal family and some 1,300 specially-invited guests.

Earlier Monday in Oslo, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union for turning Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” a contested choice of laureate as the bloc faces its worst crisis in six decades.

TT/AFP/The Local/at/dl

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NOBEL

US duo win Nobel for work on how heat and touch spark signals to the brain

US scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian on Monday won the Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch.

US duo win Nobel for work on how heat and touch spark signals to the brain
Thomas Perlmann (right), the Secretary of the Nobel Committee, stands next to a screen showing David Julius (L) and Ardem Patapoutian, winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

“The groundbreaking discoveries… by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates have allowed us to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world,” the Nobel jury said.

The pair’s research is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including chronic pain. Julius, who in 2019 won the $3-million Breakthrough Prize in life sciences, said he was stunned to receive the call from the Nobel committee early Monday.

“One never really expects that to happen …I thought it was a prank,” he told Swedish Radio.

The Nobel Foundation meanwhile posted a picture of Patapoutian next to his son Luca after hearing the happy news.

Our ability to sense heat, cold and touch is essential for survival, the Nobel Committee explained, and underpins our interaction with the world around us.

“In our daily lives we take these sensations for granted, but how are nerve impulses initiated so that temperature and pressure can be perceived? This question has been solved by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates.”

Prior to their discoveries, “our understanding of how the nervous system senses and interprets our environment still contained a fundamental unsolved question: how are temperature and mechanical stimuli converted into electrical impulses in the nervous system.”

Grocery store research

Julius, 65, was recognised for his research using capsaicin — a compound from chili peppers that induces a burning sensation — to identify which nerve sensors in the skin respond to heat.

He told Scientific American in 2019 that he got the idea to study chili peppers after a visit to the grocery store.  “I was looking at these shelves and shelves of basically chili peppers and extracts (hot sauce) and thinking, ‘This is such an important and such a fun problem to look at. I’ve really got to get serious about this’,” he said.

Patapoutian’s pioneering discovery was identifying the class of nerve sensors that respond to touch.

Julius, a professor at the University of California in San Francisco and the 12-year-younger Patapoutian, a professor at Scripps Research in California, will share the Nobel Prize cheque for 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million, one million euros).

The pair were not among the frontrunners mentioned in the speculation ahead of the announcement.

Pioneers of messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which paved the way for mRNA Covid vaccines, and immune system researchers had been widely tipped as favourites.

While the 2020 award was handed out in the midst of the pandemic, this is the first time the entire selection process has taken place under the shadow of Covid-19.

Last year, the award went to three virologists for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.

Media, Belarus opposition for Peace Prize?

The Nobel season continues on Tuesday with the award for physics and Wednesday with chemistry, followed by the much-anticipated prizes for literature on Thursday and peace on Friday before the economics prize winds things up on Monday, October 11.

For the Peace Prize on Friday, media watchdogs such as Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have been mentioned as possible winners, as has the Belarusian opposition spearheaded by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Also mentioned are climate campaigners such as Sweden’s Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future movement.

Meanwhile, for the Literature Prize on Thursday, Stockholm’s literary circles have been buzzing with the names of dozens of usual suspects.

The Swedish Academy has only chosen laureates from Europe and North America since 2012 when China’s Mo Yan won, raising speculation that it could choose to rectify that imbalance this year. A total of 95 of 117 literature laureates have come from Europe and North America.

While the names of the Nobel laureates are kept secret until the last minute, the Nobel Foundation has already announced that the glittering prize ceremony and banquet held in Stockholm in December for the science and literature laureates will not happen this year due to the pandemic.

Like last year, laureates will receive their awards in their home countries. A decision has yet to be made about the lavish Peace Prize ceremony held in Oslo on the same day.

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