Science awards show way world is really going

It’s prizes season again, and soon the famous Nobels will be upon us. Why are science prizes important? Because they tell us how the world will be in ten, fifteen and one hundred years’ time. How do we know this? Consider the world in the 1770s. The work of statesmen like Pitt and Adams was important. But the real transformation of society was going on the laboratories of men like Watt, Priestly and Boulton. For it was the steam engine and the industrial methods it afforded that led to the quantum leap of output and production that has made the modern world.

And so back to this year’s prestigious Breakthrough awards. We’ll let you read the full details in our link to Nature Briefings below. However, gentle readers, we beg the liberty of drawing your attention in particular to their sections on alpha fold proteins and quantum computing. These are today’s equivalent of electricity and steam, and will work the same transformation in our lives, rendering our current dispensation as hopelessly backward, poor and unenlightened.

Contrast the efforts of these discoverers with nostalgists of all nations. Whose desperate urge is to return us all to some map scheme they glimpsed in a long-ago youth. When men were men, smoked, and chemicals like DDT and Carbon dioxide poured out in ever-increasing quantities. The price we pay for their delusions is measured in poverty and blood. The better life is in the future.

The researchers behind the AlphaFold protein-prediction system have won one of this year’s US$3-million Breakthrough prizes — the most lucrative awards in science. Demis Hassabis and John Jumper were recognized for creating the artificial-intelligence tool, which has predicted the 3D structures of almost every known protein on the planet. “Few discoveries so dramatically alter a field, so rapidly,” says computational biologist Mohammed AlQuraishi. This year’s other Breakthrough prizes went to:
Sleep scientists Masashi Yanagisawa and Emmanuel Mignot, for independently discovering that narcolepsy is caused by a deficiency of the brain chemical orexin.Biophysical engineer Clifford Brangwynne and molecular biologist Anthony Hyman, for discovering a mechanism by which cell contents organize themselves by segregating into droplets.Four founders of the field of quantum information: Peter Shor, David Deutsch, Charles Bennett and Gilles Brassard. Their research laid the groundwork for the development of ultra-secure communications and computers that might one day outperform standard machines at some tasks.Mathematician Daniel Spielman, who was recognized for multiple advances, including the development of error-correcting codes to filter out noise in high-definition television broadcasts.Nature | 5 min read

#protein #quantum computer #progress #enlightenment #industrial revolution

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