UPDATE: And the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for chemistry is: Dan Shechtman of Israel.
Shechtam's win was for his 1982 discovery of a new chemical structure known as "quasicrystals" that the scientific community had previously thought was impossible.
The find "faced skepticism and mockery, even prompting his expulsion from his U.S. research team, before it won widespread acceptance as a fundamental breakthrough," the Associated Press reports.
The Nobel Foundation with more:
"On the morning of 8 April 1982, an image counter to the laws of nature appeared in Daniel Shechtman's electron microscope. In all solid matter, atoms were believed to be packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns that were repeated periodically over and over again. For scientists, this repetition was required in order to obtain a crystal.
"Shechtman's image, however, showed that the atoms in his crystal were packed in a pattern that could not be repeated. Such a pattern was considered just as impossible as creating a football using only six-cornered polygons, when a sphere needs both five- and six-cornered polygons. His discovery was extremely controversial. In the course of defending his findings, he was asked to leave his research group. However, his battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter."
UPDATE Tuesday, Oct. 4: The 2011 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to three U.S.-born scientists on Tuesday for showing that the expansion of the universe is constantly accelerating -- and not ever-slowing, as most scientists had assumed for decades.
The Associated Press explains: "Their discovery created a new portrait of the eventual fate of the universe: a place of super-low temperatures and black skies unbroken by the light of galaxies moving away from each other at incredible speed."
The award is being shared with one half being awarded to Saul Perlmutter and the other half jointly to Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess.
"For almost a century the universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago," the Nobel citation read. "However the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up the universe will end in ice."
UPDATE Monday, Oct. 3: Following an emergency meeting Monday, the Nobel Prize committee has decided to go ahead with plans to award its annual prize in medicine to a New York-based scientist even though he died on Friday.
The Nobel statutes typically don't allow posthumous awards. Via the AP, the foundation said: "The Nobel Prize to Ralph Steinman was made in good faith, based on the assumption that the Nobel laureate was alive."
POST Monday, Oct 3..: A Canadian-born biologist at Rockefeller University in New York was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday—three days after he died of cancer.
The prize committee was unaware that Ralph Steinman, a 68-year-old Canadian-born researcher, had passed away when it announced the honor, the Associated Press reports.* The rules don’t allow for the prize to be awarded posthumously, so the organization will have to decide whether to rescind it. Officials said they believe this is the first time a recipient has died without the committee’s knowledge prior to the announcement.
“It’s incredibly sad news,” Nobel committee member Goran Hansson said. “We can only regret that he didn’t have the chance to receive the news he had won the Nobel Prize. Our thoughts are now with his family.”
Steinman was to have shared the $1.5 million award with American Bruce Beutler, 53, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and French scientist Jules Hoffman, 70, who led a research laboratory in Strasbourg, France, until 2009. Each of the three made important discoveries related to the activation of the body’s immune system. The knowledge could be used to develop new treatments for infectious diseases, cancer, and a range of other ailments.
Steinman had been using a cutting-edge therapy based on his own research to prolong his life, Reuters reports. He had battled pancreatic cancer for four years.
The other Nobel Prize announcements are expected later this week, with the Peace Prize coming Friday. The schedule is available on the Nobel website.
*Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the Nobel Prize winner in question. His name is Ralph Steinman.