The 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics

Just time for a quick post to point out that tomorrow, Tuesday 4th October 2016, will see the announcement of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics. See here if you want to follow the announcement live.

You might think that this year is a foregone conclusion. The big science result of the year is undoubtedly the discovery of gravitational waves by Advanced LIGO. The three leaders iof the team, i.e.

Ronald W.P. Drever Professor of Physics Emeritus, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA USA
Kip S. Thorne Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA USA
Rainer Weiss Professor of Physics Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA USA

These three scientists have already won this year’s Gruber and Kavli prizes and they are among the favourites on this Nobel Prize prediction site.

I would be very happy indeed to see the Nobel Prize for Physics go to this group, but I don’t think it’s the foregone conclusion many think it is.

To see why, look at the timetable of how the Nobel Prize Committee works. In particular, note:

SeptemberNomination forms are sent out. The Nobel Committee sends out confidential forms to around 3,000 people – selected professors at universities around the world, Nobel Laureates in Physics and Chemistry, and members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, among others.

February – Deadline for submission.The completed nomination forms must reach the Nobel Committee no later than 31 January of the following year. The Committee screens the nominations and selects the preliminary candidates. About 250–350 names are nominated as several nominators often submit the same name.

The official announcement of the detection of gravitational waves was not made until 11th February, i.e. after the above deadline. Now of course many people had inside knowledge about the discovery before then so they may well have made a nomination on time, but it’s not obvious how the Nobel Prize Committee would have treated a submission based essentially on hearsay. They have a reputation for being sticklers for procedure so it’s hard to be sure. If it did make the shortlist then this nomination will surely win, but it may not have. We’ll just have to wait and see. Or am I being too cautious? Let me know what you think will happen through the  poll below:


Oh, and if you think it will be for “Something Else” please feel free to expand via the Comments Box.




12 Responses to “The 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Please clarify: Is your poll for what we think will happen or what we want to happen?

    • telescoper Says:

      What you think will happen..

    • telescoper Says:

      Oh I see. I missed a word out of the poll heading. Now fixed.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I think you are right about the date and that aLIGO will get next year’s prize. In which case: what else is on the cards?

      • telescoper Says:

        A couple of suggestions are here:

        but the source is usually wrong.

        There are a few others that have been knocking at the door for a while, Sir Michael Berry among them.

      • “There are a few others that have been knocking at the door for a while, Sir Michael Berry among them.”

        Of course, in a dinner jacket he would be severely underdressed.

        Is there a “national costume” for the UK? For Scotland, presumably formal kilt dress, but what about England, Wales, Northern Ireland? (This is an option for the Nobel Prize if you don’t want to go with white tie/evening dress.)

      • telescoper Says:

        If you’re lucky enough to be invited to the banquet they provide all the trimmings such as the white tie gear. It’s very easy for a man – women have a much harder time deciding on what to wear!

  2. The link is for the Nobel Peace Prize. Is the timetable for physics the same?

  3. I hope Irwin Shapiro gets considered for proposing and carrying out Shapiro delay measurements. This is such an important tool for both tests of GR and also measurements of masses of neutron stars. In fact gravitational waves also encounter Shapiro delay from grav. potential along line of sight. We calculated this for GW150914 (to be ~ 1800 days) Another dark horse (in field of GR) is Roy Kerr

  4. […] as I suspected, the Nobel Prize Committee for Physics played with a very straight bat and did not award this years […]

  5. […] the discovery of gravitational waves last year by the Advanced LIGO facility. That result came just a little too late to win the 2016 prize but seemed to be a certainty for this year.  The loss of such a great character is always sad for […]

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