Sports fans have the Olympics and the Superbowl; film buffs have the Oscars, music lovers the Grammys. But for the followers of dark matter, single-molecule spectroscopy and nuclear hormone receptors, Nobel Prize week is the most exciting time of the year.
The fun started this Monday morning with the announcement of the Nobel Laureates in physiology or medicine: John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, for their work in stem cell research. It continues throughout the week as the prizes in physics, chemistry, peace, economics and literature are given out.
In the days leading up to the announcements, prominent scientists, journalists and pundits have been speculating as to who should receive the coveted prize in each field. Physics geeks are lobbying for the team behind the “God particle” or the inventor of transformation optics – a weirdly nifty theory involving warped space-time and light-bending that could explain Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.
And then there’s the biggie: the Nobel Peace Prize, often the subject of controversy, as in 2010’s selection of President Barack Obama. Of course, like any other competition, the road to the Nobel can be fraught with political intrigue, professional rivalries, jealousy and backstabbing. And there can be a number of stumbling blocks along the way.
Who would you like to see win a Nobel this year? What major accomplishments in science, literature, economics and world peace have gone unrecognized by the respective Nobel Committees? Who deserves the recognition – and who doesn’t?
Peter Doherty, Michael F. Tamer Chair of Biomedical Research at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Nobel Laureate and author of “The Beginner’s Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize: Advice for Young Scientists” (Columbia University Press)