This year, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier have become the first all-woman team to be awarded a Nobel science prize for their contributions on gene editing. This years’ winners also featured astronomer Andrea Ghez and poet Louise Glück.
It’s extremely unusual for this many women to be celebrated with Nobel prizes, and the laureates hope they can inspire a new generation of researchers. It’s “great for especially younger women to see this and to see that women’s work can be recognised as much as men’s,” Doudna told reporters.
Since the Nobel prize was first awarded in 1901, only a handful of women have ever received one in the sciences: four in physics (including two in the past three years), seven in chemistry (including two this year), two in economics, and 12 in medicine or physiology. Statistically speaking, women are dramatically underrepresented in the Nobel awards, even more than in academia in general. Furthermore, stories of women’s work being overlooked or outright misattributed are already commonplace — with Rosalind Franklin being only the most famous example.
But that might be starting to change.
It’s a “historic moment” to have so many female laureates, says Pernilla Wittung Stafsheden of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, part of the chemistry committee. It was hard to overlook Doudna and Charpentier’s development of CRISPR-Cas9, a tool that allows researchers to cut and edit the genetic code of plants and animals. It’s been less than a decade since their seminal paper, and various teams are already using it to search for treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s, blindness, and many more — and the method has applications in agriculture as well.
For the laureates, this is more than just a celebration of their work: it’s a chance to spark the flame of new generations.
“My wish is that this will provide a positive message to the young girls who would like to follow the path of science, and to show them that women in science can also have an impact through the research that they are performing,” Charpentier said.
Doudna sees it as a chance for women in science to seize equality:
“I think for many women there’s a feeling that no matter what they do their work will never be recognised as it might be if they were a man,” she said. “And I’d like to see that change, of course, and I think this is a step in the right direction.”
Their comments echo those of Andrea Ghez, who after receiving the physics prize together with Roger Penrose and Reinhard Genzel stated:
“I hope I can inspire other young women into the field. It’s a field that has so many pleasures, and if you are passionate about the science, there’s so much that can be done.”
Other scientists agree that it could be a turning point. When it comes to diversity in academia, progress is still slow and these high-stakes awards could have a substantial impact. James Turner, of the Francis Crick Institute, said the Nobel was a “triumph” for women in science.
“Thanks to their discoveries, genetic modification experiments that previously took us years to complete can be achieved within weeks,” he said.
Throughout much of the academic world, there were similar responses.
“I absolutely agree that both Charpentier and Ghez will be role models for young women in Science because then it becomes more ‘normal’ to see women winning these prizes and for younger scientists not to think that this is the domain of an old white man,” Roisin Owens, biochemical engineer at University of Cambridge, told AFP.
But many caution this is still not nearly enough. For women at the start of the career especially, the continued obstacles are still there and won’t vanish after a few Nobels. Fatima Tokhmafshan, a geneticist and bioethicist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Canada who collected magazine interviews with Charpentier and Doudna when she was studying how to use CRISPR says it’s demoralizing for young women students when they learn that historical female researchers were overshadowed or unrecognized. She cautions that for many women in academia, things won’t change that much: women “do not earn as much as their male peers, don’t get to publish as much as their male peers, and don’t hold positions of power”.
But even as this is only a step in a lengthy marathon, it’s still a step, and potentially, an indication that a change may be coming.
When Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2018 for her work on high-intensity lasers, she was the first female laureate in the field since 1963. At the Lindau Nobel Meeting in 2019, she quipped that she was the only female laureate — and hoped that next year she won’t still be the only one. Her wish seems to be coming true, and this is good not just for women in science, but for science in general.
Water discovered on moon's sunlit surface – CityNews Toronto
NASA finds definitive evidence of water on moon’s surface – Global News
The moon lacks the bodies of liquid water that are a hallmark of Earth but scientists said on Monday lunar water is more widespread than previously known, with water molecules trapped within mineral grains on the surface and more water perhaps hidden in ice patches residing in permanent shadows.
While research 11 years ago indicated water was relatively widespread in small amounts on the moon, a team of scientists is now reporting the first unambiguous detection of water molecules on the lunar surface. At the same time, another team is reporting that the moon possesses roughly 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers) of permanent shadows that potentially could harbor hidden pockets of water in the form of ice.
Water is a precious resource and a relatively plentiful lunar presence could prove important to future astronaut and robotic missions seeking to extract and utilize water for purposes such as a drinking supply or a fuel ingredient.
A team led by Casey Honniball of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland detected molecular water on the lunar surface, trapped within natural glasses or between debris grains. Previous observations have suffered from ambiguity between water and its molecular cousin hydroxyl, but the new detection used a method that yielded unambiguous findings.
The only way for this water to survive on the sunlit lunar surfaces where it was observed was to be embedded within mineral grains, protecting it from the frigid and foreboding environment. The researchers used data from the SOFIA airborne observatory, a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a telescope.
“A lot of people think that the detection I’ve made is water ice, which is not true. It’s just the water molecules – because they’re so spread out they don’t interact with each other to form water ice or even liquid water,” Honniball said.
NASA spacecraft gets sample from nearby asteroid Bennu
The second study, also published in the journal Nature Astronomy, focused upon so-called cold traps on the moon, regions of its surface that exist in a state of perpetual darkness where temperatures are below about negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 163 degrees Celsius). That is cold enough that frozen water can remain stable for billions of years.
Using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, researchers led by planetary scientist Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado, Boulder detected what may be tens of billions of small shadows, many no bigger than a small coin. Most are located in the polar regions.
“Our research shows that a multitude of previously unknown regions of the moon could harbor water ice,” Hayne said. “Our results suggest that water could be much more widespread in the moon’s polar regions than previously thought, making it easier to access, extract and analyze.”
NASA is planning a return of astronauts to the moon, a mission envisioned as paving the way for a later journey carrying a crew to Mars. Accessible sources where water can be harvested on the moon would beneficial to those endeavors.
“Water is not just constrained to the polar region. It’s more spread out than we thought it was,” Honniball said.
Another mystery that remains unsolved is the source of the lunar water.
“The origin of water on the moon is one of the big-picture questions we are trying to answer through this and other research,” Hayne said. “Currently, the major contenders are comets, asteroids or small interplanetary dust particles, the solar wind, and the moon itself through outgassing from volcanic eruptions.”
NASA aiming for 2024 Moon landing
Earth is a wet world, with vast salty oceans, large freshwater lakes and ice caps that serve as water reservoirs.
“As our closest planetary companion, understanding the origins of water on the moon can also shed light on the origins of Earth’s water – still an open question in planetary science,” Hayne added.
© 2020 Reuters
A Full Blue Moon Will Rise Over Metro Vancouver Skies This Halloween – 604 Now
Sky watchers can take in the incredible wonder of the Hunter’s Blue Moon, which will be making a rare appearance this Halloween.
The full blue moon will be visible over North American skies on Oct. 31st. The lunar event is even more special considering it means there are two full moons in October—the Harvest Moon at the beginning of the month and the Hunter’s Moon at the end.
Typically, there is only one full moon per month. And the second full moon in a month is even more magical—because it’s a blue moon.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the timing of the full blue moon rising on Halloween night is also extremely rare.
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“Despite all the creative Halloween full moon pictures, a full moon occurring on Halloween is not a common occurrence and only happens every 18 to 19 years,” the website reads.
The Hunter’s Blue Moon also rises right before the end of Daylight Saving Time.
It’s at the perfect timing—with Halloween landing on a Saturday this year and people getting an extra hour of sleep on Sunday, as we turn back the clocks.
Hunter’s Blue Moon
When: Visible across North American skies on Saturday, Oct. 31st, 2020
For more things to do and see in Metro Vancouver and beyond, check out our Travel & Outdoors section.
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