Winner of the Nobel Crystal Ball event: W. S. Broecker by Kim N. Dalby

In an effort to inspire scientists, young and old, to be more involved and aware of the Nobel Prize, the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen held the very first Nobel Crystal Ball event. A week before the winner was announced, seven scientists from each section in Chemistry were given 8 minutes to present the candidate(s) they thought should, or would, win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year. The NanoGeoScience group presented a scientist who identified one of the biggest challenges facing mankind today – climate change. Wallace S. Broecker, with his expertise in 14C dating and global ocean chemistry, developed the idea of a Great Ocean Conveyer, where ocean currents circulate around the globe. Wally predicted that if this conveyer was modified, then global temperatures would also change and on a very rapid time scale (40-80 years). Wally’s prediction has been confirmed by analysis of several ice cores from Antarctica. The NanoGeoscience group thought that Wally was a worthy candidate because his discoveries had major implications, not only for how we understand climate, the C cycle and the need for CO2 sequestration, but also for the health of society and our way of life.

Despite being voted by the audience as the candidate most likely to win the Prize this year, Wally did not prevail. This year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy” (www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2014/). Their clever work now means that we can get around the Abbe limit of 0.2 micrometers in an optical light microscope and by using fluorescence, it is now possible to image in real time, “the interplay between individual molecules inside cells; they can observe disease-related proteins aggregate and they can track cell division at the nano level”(www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2014/popular-chemistryprize2014.pdf).