Nobel Prize For Computer Chemists
Written by Lucy Black   
Wednesday, 09 October 2013

The Nobel prize for chemistry has been awarded to three chemists who moved chemistry from the lab and into software. 

Computing and programming in particular seems to be a fundamental of scientific research and while there is no Nobel prize for computer science it seems that computer science is part of most Nobel prizes. 

In the case of this years chemistry prize it isn't even lurking in the background. The citation reads

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 has been awarded to Martin Karplus, Michel Levitt and Arieh Warshel for development of multiscale models of complex chemical systems.

noblenewton

The Nobel PR machine's depiction of classical and quantum mechnics learning to "get on" together.

 

The "multiscale" part of the description refers to the way the model makes use of classical mechanics when it can, only switching to the more accurate quantum picture when it is necessary at smaller scales. Being able to perform such calculations means that it is possible to model not only molecular structure but chemical reactions.  

"Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel laid the foundation for the powerful programs that are used to understand and predict chemical processes. Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today."

As any physicist will be quick to point out, chemistry is just applied quantum mechanics - and now we can add that it is also just applied virtual reality. The value of this simulation is that it provides information on the way large molecules react. For example, it can "explain" how an enzyme like lysozyme can break apart a glycoside chain, an anti-bacterial mechanism which is part of the immune system. The software models very large molecules and despite being fast it still needs a supercomputer cluster to do its job in a reasonable time. We still have some way to go before this is desktop software. 

 

Nobelchem

 

As well as in chemistry, software plays a big role in the other much-publicized Nobel - the prize for the Higgs Boson to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs. In 1964 when the equations that predicted the existence of a quantum field and its associated boson were being worked with, the order of the day was a notepad and pencil. However, the actual discovery of the boson at CERN relied not only on a huge machine but huge computing power supplied as a distributed cluster. 

Scientific computing is exciting, rewarding and fun - but you get the Nobel prize for the work in another field rather than in computing.

 

More Information

Press Release: The computer — your Virgil in the world of atoms

Taking the experiment to cyberspace (pdf)

DEVELOPMENT OF MULTISCALE MODELS FOR COMPLEX CHEMICAL SYSTEMS (pdf)

Related Articles

Goldwasser and Micali win Turing Award       

Queen Elizabeth Prize For Engineering Recognizes Internet and Web  

Judea Pearl Latest Winner of Turing Award 

Linus Torvalds - Laureate for the 2012 Milllenium Technology Prize

      

To be informed about new articles on I Programmer, install the I Programmer Toolbar, subscribe to the RSS feed, follow us on, Twitter, FacebookGoogle+ or Linkedin,  or sign up for our weekly newsletter.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Banner


Microsoft Opens MS-DOS Code
31/03/2014

Microsoft has made the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows available in the Computer History Museum which already has a range of significant software programs in its collecti [ ... ]



Microsoft Releases WinJS 2.1 As Open Source
03/04/2014

WinJS is Microsoft's JavaScript library for developing WinRT or Windows Store apps. One of the lesser announcements at this year's Build is that it is being released as open source.


More News

 

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 October 2013 )
 
 

   
RSS feed of news items only
I Programmer News
Copyright © 2014 i-programmer.info. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.