The Nobel Prizes for 2001; December 2001; Scientific American Magazine; by Alison McCook; 1 Page(s)
PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE The cell cycle governs how a cell grows and makes copies of itself''and the understanding of this process achieved by this year's laureates is likely to be a major boon to cancer researchers. All the prizewinners uncovered molecules that help to control the cell cycle. In the early 1970s, working with yeast, Leland H. Hartwell of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle pinpointed more than 100 so-called CDC genes, or cell division cycle genes, including "start," which kicks off the cycle itself. In 1987 Paul M. Nurse of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London found the start gene in humans, now called CDK 1, or cyclin-dependent kinase 1. His work complemented the efforts of R. Timothy Hunt, also of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, who discovered the first cyclin, a protein that binds to and in turn regulates the activity of CDK molecules.
PHYSICS In 1995 Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and independently Wolfgang Ketterle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, produced one of the most sought-after substances in physics: the Bose-Einstein condensate. Named after the two men who postulated its existence, the BEC is a new state of matter in which very slow moving atoms condense into a "superatom" that moves and behaves like one particle. Working with rubidium and sodium gases, the researchers slowed down individual particles by cooling the gases to a tenth of a millionth of a degree above absolute zero. The BEC promises to provide valuable insights into quantum-mechanical processes and may one day be applied to lithography, nanotechnology and ultraprecise measurements.