Archive for Sir John Pendry

Nobel Betting

Posted in Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on October 5, 2009 by telescoper

I’m reminded that the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics will be announced tomorrow, on Tuesday 6th October. A recent article in the Times Higher suggested that British physicists might be in line for glory (based on a study of citation statistics). However, the Table they produced showed that their predictions haven’t really got a good track record so it might be unwise to bet too much on the outcome! This year’s predictions are at the top, with previous years underneath; the only successful prediction is highlighted in blue:


The problem I think is that it’s difficult to win the Nobel Prize for theoretical work unless confirmed by a definitive experiment, so much as I admire (Lord) Martin Rees – and would love to see a Nobel Prize going to astrophysics generally – I think I’d have to mark him down as an outsider. It would be absurd to give the prize to string theory, of course, as that makes no contact whatsoever with experiment or observation.

I think it would be particularly great if Sir Michael Berry won a share of the physics prize, but we’ll have to wait and see. The other British runner in the paddock is Sir John Pendry. While it would be excellent for British science to have a Nobel prize, what I think is best about the whole show is that it is one of the rare occasions that puts a spotlight on basic science, so it’s good for all of us (even us non-runners).

I think the panel made a bit of a bizarre decision last year and I hope there won’t be another steward’s enquiry this year to distract us from the chance to celebrate the achievements of the winner(s).

I’d be interested to hear any thoughts on other candidates through the comments box. No doubt there’ll be some reactions after the announcement too!