Nobel Prize Betting Pool 2012

It's that time of year again, when everybody pays attention to Sweden for a couple of months: the 2012 Nobel Prizes are about to be announced. Which means it's time for the game everybody loves to tolerate: the Uncertain Principles Nobel Betting Pool:

Leave a comment to this post predicting at least one of the winners of one of this year's Nobel Prizes. If one of your guesses turns out to be correct, you win the highly coveted right to choose the topic of a future blog post.

I'm adding an additional restriction to this year's contest, though: You're not allowed to pick anything related to the Higgs boson, because it's too obvious a choice. This is supposed to be a test of skill, not a test of who can hit "Submit Comment" the fastest.

So, for example, you might post the following:

Literature: J.K. Rowling
Chemistry: Walter White
Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel: Daniel Davies

If White and Rowling win, you get to pick two topics* about which I will have to write at some point in the relatively near future. Alternatively, you could write two guest posts to be published here*.

Please limit yourself to a single comment, and one choice per prize category (you can suggest multiple names, but they should be people you think would share a prize, not two unrelated guesses: that is, "Physics: Peter Higgs and Tom Kibble" would be acceptable (were it not for the Higgs boson ban), but "Physics: either Peter Higgs or Vera Rubin" would not. In the event that more than one comment suggests the same person, the prize will go to whoever commented first, so read the prior comments before posting your guess. Guesses must be recorded by midnight Eastern US time the night before the relevant prize is announced (here's the schedule again), as determined by the time stamp on the comment.

If you'd like to base your guesses on other people's speculation, there's the annual Thomson Reuters list (which includes one of my old professors, a mind-blowing image), or the Joint Quantum Institute poll about the Physics prize. I'm not sure either of those are worth much, but you never know...

So, the comments are open: start guessing!

(*- Obligatory disclaimers: post topics chosen by the winners must be something I can write about without getting myself in trouble. Guest post essays must be acceptable in tone and content. Decisions as to the suitability of a guest post or post topic will be made by me, with possible consultation with Kate. If I decide that a suggestion is unacceptable, I will ask for another topic or for whatever changes I feel are necessary to make it acceptable.)

(Void where prohibited. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Professional driver on closed course.)

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Conditions look ripe for the Sveriges Riksbank to pull a Kissinger-for-Peace-Prize level goof, and give the Economics prize for saving the Euro (this year, anyway). Since I have to attach a name to this, I'll put forth ECB president Mario Draghi.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

Well, it's time for my now traditional prediction that the physics prize will be awarded for something on Bell inequalities and nonlocality, probably to Aspect, Clauser and Zeilinger. Note that, in contrast to previous years, I now include Clauser. This is because I have read more about the history of the subject since last year and now have a greater appreciation for Clauser's role in the first experiments.

I have no great hope that this year will be any different from any other year. The Nobel Committee seem to have a blind spot on this topic, or maybe they simply can't agree who to give the prize to. However, I make this prediction simply as a continuing show of incredulity that no prize has yet been awarded in this area. If they give a prize for anything else in quantum information and computing without giving a prize for this first then I will be extremely surprised.

Regarding previous prize choices, last year's prize was extremely well deserved, but it was for something that was done in the late 90's, whereas the Bell experiments were essentially completed in the 80's. I can think of no similarly important discovery in findamental physics that has not won a prize within a shorter timeframe than this. I mean, if they give it for creating some fancy new state of light or some clever way of sticking carbon atoms together together again then I will dispair. The Higgs discovery is just about the only thing that deserves the prize equally or more, but I don't think that will happen as it is too recent and the Nobel committee tends to be conservative about these sort of things.

By Matt Leifer (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

I also like the Aspect-Clauser-Zeilinger pick, and would be thrilled to see that win. I've often put Wineland in there as well, just because he's awesome, but Clauser was ahead of the game.

I suspect that the long delay is probably due to quantum foundations stuff being a smallish and kind of peripheral community for a long time. In recent years, those topics have finally started to get more of the publicity they deserve, which might set the stage for a Nobel. I do think there will be a sort of preliminary prize before they do anything else in quantum information-- sort of they way they did with ultracold atoms, giving a laser cooling prize in '97 and then a BEC prize in '01.

When I voted in the JQI poll, though, I went for something Higgs-related, presumably some combination of theorists. As much as the Nobel committee tends to be conservative, I don't think they're immune to publicity, either. I think the sheer number of people involved is probably a bigger obstacle than their innate conservatism-- it's hard to cut that list down to three in a way that wouldn't lead to somebody screaming bloody murder.

Physics: Deepak Chopra, for insights into Quantum Mechanics

Chemistry: Bryan Cranston, for being awesome

Physiology or Medicine: Mr./Ms. Kinesio, for the introduction of Kinesio Tape to sports medicine

Literature: E. L. James, for exploring the depths of fan fiction

Peace: Kim Jong-il, for dying

Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel: Mitt Romney, for quantifying the percentage of the population we can do away with

By Ori Vandewalle (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

I've said my piece over at about the physics prize...but for literature, surely Alice Munro deserves the prize more than any other living writer?

By Hamish Johnston (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

I can think of no similarly important discovery in findamental physics that has not won a prize within a shorter timeframe than this.

Discovery of the solar wind in 1957 is arguably of comparable importance. And I believe Eugene Parker is still alive. Not that I'm predicting he'll win (no plasma physicist since Hannes Alfvén has won), or saying that Aspect et al. don't deserve their prize.

If you look at other prizes, there have been longer delays between experiment and prize. If memory serves, McClintock won the prize in the '00's for work she did in the '60s.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

At my age I'm pleased just to be around for another year's Nobel Prizes

By killinchy (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

Physics: Stefan Hell, Eric Betzig, and John Pendry for beating the diffraction limit. It's something of a hobby horse of mine, and admittedly they've taken different approaches (with Hell and Betzig being closer to each other than to Pendry), but we have seen other physics prizes that combined a few disparate things, e.g. 2000 combined integrated circuits and semiconductor heterostructures.

Physics: Anton Zeilinger

By James Kakalios (not verified) on 04 Oct 2012 #permalink

Physics: Michael Mayor and Geoff Marcy

By Ned Wright (not verified) on 05 Oct 2012 #permalink

Physics: Kimble, Wineland, Zeilinger for their contribution in quantum optics... although there are so many figures such as Lukin, Haroche, Blatt waiting along the road. I just wish a recognition in ground breaking experiments in quantum optics. If Mandel was alive, he would definitely have been in the short list.

Lloyd Shapley doesn't have one for Economics yet, does he? We'll go with that.

By John Novak (not verified) on 05 Oct 2012 #permalink

Physics: Aharonov, Berry & Thouless

Because Vera Rubin can't get it right after a previous astro prize. Also, they want an excuse to award Berry his share for the levitating frog.

By Andrew Tan (not verified) on 07 Oct 2012 #permalink

Physics: I'm not sure which people in particular would honestly deserve a prize for this (which is the problem with large collaborations), but if you'll allow it, Chad, I'll bet on anybody from RHIC this year, for the QGP, elliptic flow, probing the QCD phase diagram.

If that is not allowed, then let me say Adler and Jackiw for the anomaly. If it is allowed, then someone else can guess these guys, which I think is a strong theory bet.

Also, I've twice[1] attempted to claim my post topic from last year's contest to no avail : - /.

[1] "Perlmutter FTW", private communication, Oct. 4, 2011, Nov. 1 2011 and Jan. 11 2012.

By Evan Berkowitz (not verified) on 08 Oct 2012 #permalink