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UC Nobel winners underscore value of investments in higher education

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The awarding of the Nobel Prizes to three University of California faculty members this month underscores the importance of the state’s world-class public higher education system to advancing the pace of discovery and innovation that fuels economic growth and improves lives.

UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry with colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier for the co-development of CRISPR-Cas9, a genome editing breakthrough that has revolutionized biomedicine.

This technology allows scientists to rewrite DNA — the code of life — in any organism, including human cells. It has opened the door to treatments for thousands of diseases as well as new possibilities across biology and agriculture.

UC Berkeley Professor emeritus Reinhard Genzel and UCLA Professor Andrea Ghez shared half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics for “the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.”

They join a proud legacy of the UC system winning Nobel Prizes that stretches back to 1939 and includes 68 faculty and staff who have been awarded 69 Nobel Prizes. Their discoveries have advanced medicine, economics, physics and more, powering innovations that improve lives and strengthen the state’s and the nation’s economy.

To support them and help invigorate the economy, the state and federal government must continue to invest in California’s world-class public higher education system. The strength of the state’s economy will be critical to the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus downtown because California accounts for nearly 15% of the nation’s gross domestic product. The state’s public higher education system is critical to California’s economy. The UC system alone is the state’s third-largest employer and, along with the CSU, contributes over $60 billion to California’s economy every year.

As the world’s largest public research university system, UC is also responsible for sparking statewide innovation, with an

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Nobel Prize in Economics awarded to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson of Stanford University

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“Their discoveries have benefited sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world,” the prize committee said.

The men were honored for theoretical insights into developing the best rules for bidding and for establishing the final price. The resulting improvements in auction formats have proven especially useful in auctioning off goods and services that are difficult to price using traditional methods, such as radio frequencies, the committee said.

Wilson, 83, was cited for theoretical research that explored “the winner’s curse” in auctions of goods that ultimately had the same value to all potential buyers, such as minerals in a specific geographic area. He developed a theory explaining the tendency of successful bidders to place bids lower than their own estimate of the item’s value to themselves or other buyers, because they feared paying too much.

Milgrom, 72, drew the nod for developing a more general theory of auctions involving values that vary between bidders. After analyzing bidding strategies in several popular auctions, he showed the best format to be one in which bidders learn more about each other’s estimated values during bidding.

Auctions are embedded throughout the modern economy. Art houses use them to sell paintings and antiquities. Search engines rely on them to dispose of advertising space. And public authorities offer airport landings slots and mineral rights via auctions.

Global financial markets also operate on their principles.

Asked by reporters about his own use of auctions, Wilson mentioned that he had recently purchased a pair of ski boots on eBay. “It’s something you encounter a lot,” he said.

The prize committee said that Milgrom and Wilson had invented new formats for simultaneously auctioning off many interrelated objects for societal benefit rather than maximal revenue. In 1994, the U.S. government first used their insights to auction off radio frequencies to telecommunications companies.

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How Andrea Ghez Won the Nobel for an Experiment Nobody Thought Would Work

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Standing in my office 25 years ago was an unknown, newly minted astronomer with a half-smile on her face. She had come with an outrageous request—really a demand—that my team modify our exhaustively tested software to make one of our most important and in-demand scientific instruments do something it had never been designed for, and risk breaking it. All to carry out an experiment that was basically a waste of time and couldn’t be done—to prove that a massive black hole lurked at the center of our Milky Way.

My initial “no way” (perhaps I used a stronger expression) gradually gave way in the face of her cheerful but unwavering determination. It was my first encounter with a force of nature, Andrea Ghez, one of three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, for her work on providing the conclusive experimental evidence of a supermassive black hole with the mass of four million suns residing at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

That determination and the willingness to take calculated risks has always characterized Andrea. For 25 years she has focused almost exclusively on Sagittarius A*—the name of our own local supermassive black hole. It is remarkable that an entire field of study has grown up in the intervening quarter century, of searching for and finding evidence of these monsters thought to lie at the heart of every large galaxy. And Andrea is without question one of the great pioneers in this search.

Andrea’s co-prizewinner Reinhard Genzel has been involved in the same research from the outset—and it is the work of these two teams, each led by a formidable intellect and using two different observatories in two different hemispheres that has brought astronomy to this remarkable result—the confirmation of another of the predictions of Einstein’s more than

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Mario Molina, Mexico chemistry Nobel winner, dies at 77

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mario Molina, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995 and the only Mexican scientist to be honored with a Nobel, died Wednesday in his native Mexico City. He was 77 years old.

Molina’s faamily announced his death in a brief statement through the institute that carried his name. It did not give a cause of death.

He won the prize along with scientists Frank Sherwood Rowland of the United States and Paul Crutzen of the Netherlands for their research into climate change.

Molina and Rowland published a paper in 1974 that saw the thinning of the ozone layer as a consequence of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, chemicals used in a range of products.


Molina’s work contributed to the drafting of the first international treaty on the subject, the Montreal Protocol, which phased out the use of the chemicals. Later, he focused on confronting air pollution in major cities like his own Mexico City and pushing for global actions to promote sustainable development.

One of his last public appearances was alongside Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, also a scientist, in a video conference during which Molina reflected on the coronavirus pandemic and the importance of wearing masks to avoid transmission.

Molina was a member, among other institutions, of the National Academy of Sciences and for eight years was one of the 21 scientists who composed President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

Only two other Mexicans have been awarded Nobel Prizes: Alfonso García Robles received the Peace Prize in 1982 for his work on nuclear weapons negotiations and writer Octavio Paz was awarded the prize for literature in 1990.

Molina died on the same day this year’s prize for chemistry was awarded.

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Black Hole Discoveries Win 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics | World News

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By Niklas Pollard and Douglas Busvine

STOCKHOLM/BERLIN (Reuters) – Three scientists who unravelled some of the deep mysteries of black holes, the awe-inspiring pockets of the universe where space and time cease to exist, have won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Britain’s Roger Penrose, professor at the University of Oxford, won half the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) for his proof that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

“It was an extreme honour and great pleasure to hear the news this morning in a slightly unusual way – I had to get out of my shower to hear it,” Penrose told reporters from his home in Oxford on Tuesday.

German Reinhard Genzel, of the Max Planck Institute and University of California, Berkeley, and Andrea Ghez, at the University of California, Los Angeles, shared the other half for discovering that an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the centre of our galaxy.

Ghez – only the fourth woman to be awarded the Physics prize after Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018 – said she hoped it would inspire others to enter the field.

Asked about the moment of discovery, Ghez said: “The first thing is doubt.”

“You have to prove to yourself that what you are really seeing is what you think you are seeing. So, both doubt and excitement,” the 55-year-old American said in a call with the committee after receiving the award.

Genzel was on a Zoom call with colleagues when the phone rang. “Just like in the movies, a voice said: ‘This is Stockholm’,” the 68-year-old astrophysicist told Reuters Television in his cluttered office on the outskirts of Munich.

He was flabbergasted by the news:

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