Thursday, October 02, 2008

Thomson Reuters: Nobel predictions

Off-topic: The House joins the Senate and passes the revised bailout plan. It helped that Nancy Pelosi avoided her hateful rhetoric, there were more people speaking in favor of the bill, many shareholders apparently called their congresspeople by telephone ;-), and Republican lawmakers explained that "Yes" meant "In God we trust", so even God supported the bailout. ;-) You may join fast-comment discussions about the bailout.
Thomson Reuters has presented its predictions for the 2008 Nobel prize winners (that will be announced next week). During the last several years, they were pretty unsuccessful but let's have a look, anyway.

In physics, they propose the following scenarios:
  • Andre Geim, Kostya Novoselov for graphene
  • Vera Rubin (only) for dark matter
  • Roger Penrose, Dan Schechtman for quasicrystals
and possibly their previous guesses based on a blind interpretation of citation counts:
  • Michael Green, John Schwarz, Edward Witten for string theory (that would be the second GSW theoretical physics Nobel prize)
  • Alan Guth, Andrei Linde, Paul Steinhardt for inflation
  • Emmanuel Desurvire, Masatake Nakazawa, David Payne for some work on optic fibers
  • Martin Rees for something in cosmology (origin of CMB or galaxy formation?)
  • Sumio Ijima for carbon nanotubes
  • Arthur McDonald for neutrino physics
Some of the entries look really unlikely. Nevertheless, they have similar predictions for chemistry, medicine, and economics, too. I don't know those guys so let me avoid the lists of the names. In chemistry, Thomson Reuters has one correct guess: the prize will be awarded for fluorescent proteins. However, they only propose one name, Tsien, but there will be two more winners sharing the award.

If you care about the discredited peace prize, candidates include Chinese dissident Hu Jia, Bono, Greenpeace, and Bill Richardson.

Concerning the literature prize, we've been just told by a voting committee member that an American winner is unlikely because the U.S. writers are provincial and ignorant, isolating themselves from the universal debate of literature and following the mass culture around them instead.

You will probably be shocked to hear that the U.S. publishers and associations didn't quite agree with Horace Engdahl. ;-) See e.g. a defense in the Crimson that, frankly speaking, looks somewhat weak to me.

They mostly say that it is politically incorrect to generalize to whole nations. Well, that's not exactly a counter-argument. The last U.S. winner so far was Toni Morrison in 1993 and she got the prize for writings about the U.S. reality, confirming the self-absorption, too. I add: she wrote mostly about black women.

Arnošt Lustig is a Jewish Czech candidate for the literature prize, besides French, Australian, and other writers.

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