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Nobel prizes go to scientists harnessing odd phenomena

Superconductivity, superfluidity, imaging with magnetism, and membrane chemistry

The 2003 Nobel prizes in the sciences were announced early this week.

Physiology or Medicine

Two scientists will share this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking work in producing images of internal organs by inducing live tissues to emit tiny radio signals.

In this technology, called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a technician exposes a portion of a patient's body to a strong magnetic field. Like compass needles swiveling north, protons in the tissue's atoms align with the applied magnetic field. Then, the technician directs a radio pulse at the tissue, scrambling the positions of the protons. When the pulse ends, the protons revert to their original positions, emitting measurable radio signals.

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