The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2009 has been announced and goes to Charles K. Kao for “for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication” and to Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith for the “for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor.”
I’m crazy busy so don’t have time to comment on the physics of these awards at the moment, but the thing that struck me about this selection will probably strike a few others and can be summarized in two words: Bell labs. Boyle and Smith are retired from Bell labs which is also where they invented the CCD. And today…. Well today Bell labs does not do any basic physics research. Instead its current owner, Alcatel-Lucent has Bell labs focused on “more immediately marketable areas such as networking, high-speed electronics, wireless, nanotechnology and software.” In other words, you can pretty much bet that when you plot Bell labs nobel prizes verses time you will see an amazing bubble, leading to a complete collapse.
Oh, and by my count that makes two McGill grads with Nobel prizes this year so far (Boyle in physics, Szostak in medicine.)