A Nobel Book

The announcement this morning of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology reminded me that tomorrow will see the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics. This is due to happen tomorrow morning at 11.45 CET (which I think is 10.45 BST) or thereabouts. It would be unseemly to speculate on the outcome, of course, so that’s what I’ll do.

Although the discovery of a scalar particle at the Large Hadron Collider that may well be the Higgs boson happened only recently, and is yet to be definitively proven to be the Higgs, the smart money has to be on an award relating to that, presumably to Peter Higgs. However, given that the award can go to up to three individuals, who else might earn a share? Gerald Guralnik, Tom Kibble and Carl Richard Hagen came up with the same idea about the same time as Higgs, but all four of them can’t win according to the rules. Answers to that little conundrum on a postcard…

But of course the Prize might go to something else altogether. An interesting bet would be Alain Aspect for his important work on experimental studies of quantum entanglement. Also with an outside chance is Sir Michael Berry for his brilliant work on the Geometric Phase.

That’s by no means an exhaustive list of runners and riders, but I have to get back to business now. I’d be interested to have further nominations via the comments box and will of course be getting an early night ahead of the expected phone call from Stockholm tomorrow morning…

17 Responses to “A Nobel Book”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Aspect did the early work but the frontrunner in experimental quantum entanglement for a long time has been Anton Zeilinger.

    I’d be glad to see Michael Berry get it, although I agree it’s a long shot.

  2. telescoper Says:

    It should of course be awarded to me for the discovery of Coleslaw.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I first heard of the stuff in spoken conversation and, as it is served cold, assumed it was Cold Slaw (or Slorr). Until I read it I wondered what slaw was like served hot.

      Have you heard of the Slodge family, by the way? It includes Master Slodge, Porter Slodge and many others – a distinguished Cambridge family.

      • telescoper Says:

        Cole in this sense is from the same root (geddit?) as Kohl, or Chancellor Cabbage as he was known to his friends, and Kohlrabi. In Spain Brussels Sprouts are known as Coles de Bruselas.

        My surname however does not have the same etymology. It is in fact a diminutive form of “Nicholas”, as was applied to Old King Cole.

        I recall you used to live with young Byron Slodge…

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Yes, he had a subscription to Private Eye.

    • You alone? There might be some sour Krauts who disagree with that. And the Korean physicist Kim Chi might also have a claim to the discovery.

      • telescoper Says:

        I was definitely the first one to identify the origin of cabbages in a (scalar) field.

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    Yes, give it to the Higgs boson itself!

  4. telescoper Says:

    There’s a blog post on the Physics World site that also suggests it might be too early for Higgs:


  5. Anton Garrett Says:

    Phillip: Such an A-Z prize would have to be “for verifying that quantum mechanics continues to work in situations where its predictions clash with classically educated intuition.” I’m not sure that this warrants a trip to Stockholm unless the experiments were fearsomely difficult to implement.

  6. David Pendlebury Says:

    Not Higgs this year, I’d say. To Aspect and Zeilinger, I would add John F. Clauser. That or Sajeev John and Eli Yablonovitch for photonic crystals. I hope to be surprised — always more interesting.

  7. Anton Garrett Says:

    Announcement imminent… live feed at


  8. telescoper Says:

    And the winners are:

    David Wineland and Serge Haroche for experimental quantum optics.

    (i.e. none of the above). Congratulations to them both!

    I note it took very little time for their wikipedia pages to get updated!

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I was monitoring how quickly Usain Bolt’s page got updated after his world record in the 2008 Olympics – not more than seconds. The ‘winner’ must have had the change prepared on the presumption that he broke the world record, and needed only to type Bolt’s time in and hit the upload button.

      Quantum optics also won in 1997 and 2005. This year’s citation laid stress on the capability to observe individual quantum systems, which is a necessary part of testing Bell-type predictions.

      Let’s wish Peter Higgs good health for the next 12 months at least.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      PS Chemistry is worth monitoring too at the same time tomorrow as its Nobel citations look increasingly like either biochemistry or molecular physics nowadays.

  9. telescoper Says:

    Here’s a nice, accessible introduction to the work of Haroche and Wineland:

    Click to access popular-physicsprize2012.pdf

  10. David Pendlebury Says:

    The Nobel season evokes many thoughts: individual achievement versus collective contributions, zero-sum games, small differences that have big effects, unrecognized but sterling efforts by junior researchers (Norman Heatley ’45 penicillin to Tetsuji Okada ’12 GPCR), and so I find Professor Coles’ earlier blog entry highlighting Shakespeare’s Sonnet 25 particularly apt, perhaps more so than he knew.

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