Nobel season opens without Literature Prize, sidelined by #MeToo scandal

A medal of Alfred Nobel is pictured before the announcement of the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on October 2, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018
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Nobel season opens without Literature Prize, sidelined by #MeToo scandal

STOCKHOLM: The announcement on Monday of the Nobel Medicine Prize opens this year’s amputated awards season, with no Literature Prize for the first time in 70 years because of a #MeToo scandal.
Like every year, Nobel aficionados have speculated wildly about possible winners, given the number of worthy candidates in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, peace and economics.
The medicine prize committee at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute is the first to reveal its choice of laureates, on Monday at 11:30am.
But its announcement risks being at least partially eclipsed by a Stockholm court’s verdict around the same time against Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault, charged with rape.
His close ties to the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, have caused a scandal and deep rift in the Academy, prompting it to postpone this year’s prize for a year.
It is the first time the prize has been postponed since William Faulkner’s 1949 honor was awarded in 1950.
Without the Literature Prize this year, the most highly-anticipated award will be that for peace, announced on Friday in Oslo.
But before that come the science prizes, traditionally dominated by men working at US institutions.
Swedish public radio SR tipped however the medicine prize could go to two women for the gene-editing technique known as the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA snipping tool, a type of genetic “scissors” used to cut out a mutated gene in a human embryo and replace it by a corrected version.
However, the discovery could be too early for a Nobel, with a recent study suggesting the technique may damage DNA more than previously thought. A legal dispute is also raging over who discovered the technique.
It has been claimed on the one hand by the French-American research duo of Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, and on the other by Chinese-born American Feng Zhang.
Other research mentioned as Nobel-worthy include the cochlear implant, which can help deaf people to hear again, and gene sequencing, already honored with a chemistry Nobel in 1980 but a field whose vast progress has revolutionized medical, biological and evolutionary research since then.
Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet meanwhile cited research on opiates and pain relief, new blood vessel growth, and the creation of a giant gene and genome database as other possible award-winning fields.
The physics prize will follow on Tuesday.
SR suggested the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences could give the nod to research on zero-dimensional quantum dots — very small semiconductor particles that play a key role in data communications, light diodes, solar cells and medical imaging.
Svenska Dagbladet meanwhile said the discovery of the so-called “spin Hall effect” in semiconductors could be honored, or pioneering methods to determine the age, size and distance between galaxies.
Work on the mechanisms behind supercapacitators, a type of battery that can store large amounts of electricity, was also seen as a possibility.
The chemistry prize, to be announced on Wednesday, could meanwhile go to recurring favorite John Goodenough, a 96-year old electrochemist whose work led to the invention of rechargeable lithium ion battery present in cell phones, computers and electric cars, SR said.
For the Peace Prize, the only Nobel announced in Oslo, there are 329 candidates this year but their names are kept secret.
US President Donald Trump has been mentioned as a possibility for his efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula.
But Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said he believed it would be “inappropriate” to honor Trump after he withdrew the US from international agreements on the climate and Iran’s nuclear program.
In addition, the only known Trump nomination submitted to the Nobel committee turned out to be a fake.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has also been mentioned for his rapprochement efforts with North Korea.
But Smith said that would be “premature,” recalling the dashed hopes after Moon’s predecessor Kim Dae-jung won the prize in 2000.
Other names circulating include Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, who both campaign against sexual violence, as well as the World Food Programme, the UN refugee agency UNHCR, organizations defending the media and Russian human rights champions.
The 2018 Nobel season wraps up on October 8 with the announcement of the economics prize.
This year, each Nobel comes with a nine-million kronor ($1.01 million) prize sum, to be shared if several laureates are honored in the same discipline.


India to make new bid to launch Moon rocket on Monday

Updated 18 July 2019
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India to make new bid to launch Moon rocket on Monday

  • India would become the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon
  • The project is one of the cheapest amongst its kind internationally

NEW DELHI: India will make a new bid to launch a landmark mission to the Moon on Monday, a week after aborting lift-off at the last minute because of a fuel leak, officials said.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said it had rescheduled the launch of Chandrayaan-2, or Moon Chariot-2, for 2:43 p.m. (0913 GMT) on Monday.
India is aiming to become just the fourth nation after Russia, the United States and China to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
Indian space chiefs called off the planned launch of the rocket 56 minutes before blast-off on Monday morning because of what ISRO called a “technical snag.”
Media reports quoted ISRO scientists saying a helium fuel leak had been detected.
India has spent about $140 million on preparations for the project, which is one of the cheapest among international space powers.
By comparison, the United States spent about $25 billion — the equivalent of more than $100 billion in current prices — on 15 Apollo missions in the 1960s and 70s.
The rocket will launch from a space center in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
It will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.
The orbiter is meant to keep circling the Moon for about one year, taking pictures of the surface and sending back information on the atmosphere.
A lander named Vikram will take the rover to the surface near the lunar South Pole.
India’s first lunar mission in 2008 — Chandrayaan-1 — did not land on the Moon, but carried out a search for water using radar.
A soft landing on the Moon would be a huge leap forward in India’s space program, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi determined to launch a manned mission into space by 2022.
India also has ambitions to land a probe on Mars. In 2014, India became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet.