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TCM Spotlighting Science In The Movies Throughout January

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CurieWe’ve been highlighting several ongoing science fiction marathons this week, but those will be drawing to a close with the end of the holidays. If you still want to keep your DVR stocked with science- and science fiction-related programming, you’ll want to figure out where the hell TCM is on your cable or satellite. Beginning tomorrow night, and continuing throughout the month of January, TCM will be filling their Friday-night lineup with classic movies that “delve into issues of scientific discovery, exploration and alteration, with some side trips into science fiction.”

Sure, that description sounds kind of broad, so let’s get specific. Each of the Friday-night events will focus on different scientific themes, ranging from “Scientists on a Mission” to “Great Inventors” to “Mad Scientists.” And as we all know, mad science is the very best science. Tomorrow night’s themes are “Nobel Prize Winners” and one of our favorites here at GFR, “Rocket Science.”

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Nobel Prize Chemistry Winners Paved The Way For Computer Models

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old chem modelsThe announcements of the 2013 Nobel Prizes continued this week, and while I want to give a shout-out to one of my favorite authors, Canadian Alice Munro, for her Nobel Prize in Literature win, I’ll be taking a closer look at this year’s winners in the chemistry category: Martin Karplus of Harvard University and the Université de Strasbourg in France, Michael Levitt of the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California. They won the $1.25 million prize “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

Back in the day, chemists used models of molecules that looked a little more like what we used in science class — plastic balls joined together by sticks. While that was fun and all, it wasn’t super sophisticated.

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And The Nobel Prize In Physiology/Medicine Goes To…

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vesicleAs much as I love the IgNobel Awards, the real thing remains the single most coveted distinction out there. Many of this year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet—physics is tomorrow, chemistry is Wednesday, literature is Thursday, the Peace Prize on Friday, and economic sciences will be announced next Monday—the recipients of the prize for physiology or medicine were announced today. The winners just so happen to be a trio of researchers from the good ol’ US of A who did groundbreaking work on transportation systems within cells.

James E. Rothman of Yale University, Randy W. Schekman of the University of California at Berkeley, and Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University will split the $1.25 million prize—maybe they’ll toast themselves and each other with a glass of moon dust beer. Their award-winning research involves vesicles, which are bubbles of fatty molecules, in cells. These vesicles carry proteins and hormones within the cell. The system they use makes it possible for nerve cells to communicate with each other via the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Vesicles also promote the body’s release of insulin to regulate blood sugar, but their ability to transport hormones and proteins can be crippled by certain toxins like tetanus.

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Nobel Prize Winners Draw Their Discoveries

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Robert-Laughlin-Sketches-of-Science-Nobel-Museum-Volker-Steger

If there were a Nobel Prize for visual art, I think it’s fair to say they’d all be empty-handed, but that wasn’t a concern of Volker Steger, a German photographer tasked with the assignment of taking portraits of Nobel Prize winning scientists. The portraits were to be nothing new — the scientists sitting in a chair, talking about science and being smart while he captured them on the canvas. Steger decided to spice things up a little by making his own artistic alteration: having the scientists attempt to express their prize-worthy discoveries on paper.