Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 10th 2013 Contents A46
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, October 10, 2013
NEW YORK---Three US-based sci-
entists won a Nobel Prize yesterday
for developing a powerful new way
to do chemistry on a computer.
They pioneered highly sophisticated
computer simulations of complex
chemical processes, giving researchers
tools they are now using for a wide
variety of tasks, such as designing new
drugs and solar cells.
"Today the computer is just as
important a tool for chemists as the
test tube," the Swedish Academy of
Sciences said in announcing this year s
$1.2 million chemistry prize.
"Simulations are so realistic that they
predict the outcome of traditional
As academy secretary Staffan Nor-
mark put it: "This year s prize is about
taking the chemical experiment to
The prize honoured research done
in the 1970s by Martin Karplus, Michael
Levitt and Arieh Warshel.
All three scientists became US cit-
izens. Karplus came to the US with his
family as Jewish refugees from Nazi-
occupied Austria in 1938. The 83-year-
old US and Austrian citizen splits his
time between the University of Stras-
bourg in France and Harvard University.
Levitt, 66, was born in South Africa
and is a British, US, and Israeli citizen.
He is a professor at Stanford University.
Warshel, 72, was born in Israel and is
a US and Israeli citizen affiliated with
the University of Southern California
in Los Angeles. Levitt is a biology pro-
fessor, while the two other winners are
Levitt told the Associated Press the
award recognised him for work he did
when he was 20, before he even had
"It was just me being in the right
place at the right time and maybe hav-
ing a few good ideas," he said by tele-
phone from his home in California.
He joked that the biggest immediate
impact of the prize would be his need
for dance lessons before appearing at
the Nobel banquet.
"When you go to Stockholm, you
have to do ballroom dancing," Levitt
"This is the big problem I have right
Karplus told the AP the call from the
Nobel judges had him worried that the
caller might be bearing bad news.
"Usually you think when you get a
call at 5 o clock in the morning it s going
to be bad news, you know, something s
happened," he said.
Warshel, speaking by telephone to a
news conference in Stockholm, said he
was "extremely happy" to be awakened
in the middle of the night in Los Ange-
les to get the good news.
The three men were honoured for
blending two previous approaches for
simulating molecules and chemical
reactions on computers. One was quan-
tum physics, which applies on the scale
of an atom, and the other was classical
Newtonian physics, which operates at
Classical physics could simulate large
molecules but not chemical reactions.
Quantum physics could give realistic
results for reactions but couldn t be
used with large molecules because the
equations were too complex to solve.
The blended approach, which uses
quantum mechanics only for key parts
of molecules and classical physics for
the rest, provides the accuracy of the
quantum approach with manageable
Working together at Harvard in the
early 1970s, Karplus and Warshel devel-
oped a computer programme that
brought together classical and quantum
physics. Warshel later joined forces with
Levitt at the Weizmann Institute of
Science in Israel and at the University
of Cambridge in Britain to develop a
programme that could be used to study
enzymes. Jeremy Berg, a professor of
computational and systems biology at
the University of Pittsburgh, said the
winning work gives scientists a way to
understand complicated interactions
that involve thousands to millions of
Stanford University professor Michael Levitt, who won the Nobel Prize
in chemistry yesterday, is embraced by his wife Rina at their home, in
Stanford, California. Three US-based scientists won this year's Nobel
Prize in chemistry for developing powerful computer models that
researchers use to understand complex chemical interactions and create
new drugs. AP PHOTOS
Martin Karplus, one of three
scientists who won the Nobel
Prize for Chemistry.
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