Predictions for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Another day, another Nobel Prize announcement. Today it’s the turn of the Chemistry Prize. The announcement will be made in under two hours, at 11:45 CET, and as always you can see the live announcement webcast on

So, who could be in the running this year. Well, when it comes to chemistry predictions, most eyes turn to Paul Bracher and his ChemBark blog. With organic chemistry getting the prize last year, and structural biology the year before, Bracher’s favourites are Richard Zare and WE Moerner for developing laser-based and single-molecule spectroscopy techniques (see Zare’s Wolf Prize citation here and Moerner’s here), and Pierre Chambon, Ronald Evans and Elwood Jensen for the discovery of nuclear hormone receptors (you can see their 2004 Lasker Prize citation here).

Karin Bojs at the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter agrees with the Zare & Moerner prediction, but adds Arthur Horwich and Franz-Ulrich Hartl to her list for their work on protein-folding mechanisms, and also picks DNA sequencing technology, with Eugene Myers, Craig Venter and Leroy Hood as her choice of likely candidates. Ash Jogalekar at Curious Waveform, has some of the candidates above on his list, but also mentions Stuart Schrieber and Peter Schultz for chemical biology and chemical genetics.

Thomson Reuters, meanwhile, as I previously posted have a different list of candidates: Allen Bard for “the development and application of scanning electrochemical microscopy; Jean Fréchet, Donald Tomalia, and Fritz Vögtle for “the invention and development of dendritic polymers; and Martin Karplus for pioneering simulations of the molecular dynamics of biomolecules.

Will it be an organic chemistry prize, an analytical chemistry prize, or another biology-related prize to upset the purists? I’ll post a rundown of the initial reactions as soon as I can after the announcement.

Predictions for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics

After the whirlwind of a day that accompanied the announcement of the Medicine Prize, I’m sure many hope that things will be a lot calmer for today’s Physics Prize announcement. The announcement will be made at 11:45 CET, and as usual you can see the live webcast and find out the names of the new Laureates as soon as it happens on, or follow the action on Twitter using the #NobelPrize hashtag. You can also follow blow-by-blow action of the news over at The Guardian’s liveblog. Let’s see if we can get the subject of physics trending before it gets swamped by coverage of the new iPhone announcement.

So who could be in the running for this year’s Physics Prize? As mentioned in a previous post, Thomson Reuters made their picks based on citation data, and top of their list is Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger for “their tests of Bell’s inequalities and research on quantum entanglement.” It’s a choice that ZapperZ at the Physics and Physicists blog agrees with.

On the other physics blogs, Metadatta lists a few options, before opting for Yakir Aharonov and Michael Berry for their work on quantum topological and geometrical phases. And over at Chad Orzel’s Uncertain Principles his annual betting pool is throwing up a few other names too, including Vera Rubin, Marc Davis and Joel Primack for Cold Dark Matter theory.

If you’re a Quora fan you can add to this thread, which admittedly is not seeing much action. Or you can add to the names being predicted on Twitter, using the #nobelphysicspredictions hashtag.

If you see any more predictions, do please drop me a comment and I’ll include them on the list.

UPDATE: Physics World’s blog polled its viewers, with over half of them predicting that this year’s prize will go to quantum information (with the most likely people being Anton Zeilinger, Dave Wineland and Alain Aspect), followed by neutrino oscillations.

Local predictions for the Nobel Prizes

As many of the news stories say, today marks the beginning of the so-called “Nobel Season”, with the announcement of the 2011 Medicine Prize in a few hours time. Which means its time to start seeing who the smart money is on in Sweden.

I’ll leave the Literature and Peace predictions for later on this week, but top of the list for science prize predictors is Karin Bojs, science editor for the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Bojs’s forecasts are frequently and unnervingly on the mark, and you can see her full list of predictions for the Medicine, Physics and Chemistry Prizes here. Bojs presents a lengthy and persuasive case for today’s Medicine Prize to be shared by Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka for his work with induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells for short, British scientist John Gurdon for being the first scientist to clone an animal, and Canadian biophysicist James Till for discovering of blood stem cells.

What sets Bojs’s prediction apart from most press speculation is that she tries to think in the same way that the committee would. In this case, she argues that not only would sharing the prize in this way provide a balance of basic research breakthroughs with clinical applications, but also that Till’s long time collaborator, Ernest McCullogh, died earlier this year, so there wouldn’t the issue of having more than the maximum three possible Laureates for an individual prize.

There appears to be no repeat of last year’s extraordinary events, in which the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet ran a front-page splash before the announcement declaring correctly that the recipient would be British test-tube baby pioneer Robert Edwards, and confidential documents were stolen from a committee member’s car. As the Associated Press reports, the Medicine Prize committee has applied even stricter rules on keeping their discussions and documents surrounding potential candidates secret. But it won’t be long before we find out who’s name is on their list for this year.

Who could be in line for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize?

Today, the five-person committee for the Nobel Peace Prize is gathering for what is expected to be their final meeting to decide the recipient(s) of this year’s award.

As always, the press is exploring any signs or clues that could reveal who is in line for the prize. As Gwladys Fouche reports in Reuters, Thorbjørn Jagland, the chairman of the Peace Prize-awarding committee (officially known as the Norwegian Nobel Committee), says this year’s prize will be as interesting as the two others that have been awarded under his leadership. Given that the last two prizes went to the imprisoned Chinese writer and activist Liu Xiaobo, prompting a strident response from state authorities, and to President Barack Obama, less than a year into his term of office, all eyes are sure to be on Oslo next Friday to see whose names are read out.

The smart money, perhaps not surprisingly, seems to be on the Arab Spring. However, who could receive this prize is more difficult matter. Another Reuters article by Fouche has claims from the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s secretary Geir Lundestad there are “a few” candidates linked to the Arab Spring among this year’s nominees, though he declined to name them.

A regular in the pre-announcement guessing game is Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, and he tells Forbes that the Egyptian activists Israa Abdel Fattah, Ahmed Maher and the April 6 Youth Movement Facebook group they co-founded, would top his list of candidates. Other possible candidates are Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing executive, who galvanized protests on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni who began criticizing the Tunisian regime before the uprising began in December last year.

Although nominations are meant to be kept secret for 50 years, Peace Prize nominators tend to have looser lips than those for the other prizes. The Norwegian Nobel Committee does release the number of nominations — there’s a record 241 candidates (of which 53 are organizations) for this year’s prize – but every year a handful of nominators decide to make their choices public. The Peace Research Institute Oslo has a list of the leaked nominations as well as some speculative names. Among the known nominees this year is the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and its head Julian Assange. Their response? Well, you can see for yourself in this tweet.

Meanwhile, the future of the Confucius Prize, set up as a Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, appears to have been thrown into doubt. Launched just days before the Peace Prize went to Liu Xiaobo, it is now claimed that the organizers didn’t seek permission from China’s Ministry of Culture to offer the prize. As the Daily Telegraph reports, the decision to ban the prize means that Lien Chan, a former vice president of Taiwan, could go down in history as its first and only winner. However, the Wall Street Journal quotes Confucius Peace Prize executive chairman Liu Haofeng as saying that another group under China’s Ministry of Culture plans to offer a similar award next year, called the Confucius World Peace Prize.

Betting begins for the Nobel Prize in Literature

Earlier this week I listed various predictions for this year’s Nobel Prizes, but I left one prize out deliberately. Other Nobel Prizes may stimulate fevered speculation, but there’s only one prize area that people really put their money where their mouths are… and that’s Literature.

Now the British bookmaker Ladbrokes has revealed its odds for this year’s Literature Prize, it’s time to start placing your bets. The two favourites are the same as last year: Syrian poet (and recipient of this year’s Goethe Prize) Adonis tops the list, as he has done for several years, at 4/1, followed by the Swedish writer and poet Tomas Tranströmer at 9/2.

A big difference in this year’s list is that the American novelist Thomas Pynchon has risen to third favourite at 10/1. And as Alison Flood at The Guardian reports, four new names feature near the top of Ladbrokes’ list: Hungarian writer Peter Nadas at 12/1, Nepali poet Rajendra Bhandari and Indian poet K Satchidanandan, both at 20/1, and Romanian author Mircea Cărtărescu at 25/1. Recent Literature Laureates, such as Mario Vargas Llosa and JMG Le Clézio were around these odds; could these names have been leaked as being on the shortlist, speculates MA Orthofer at the Literary Saloon?

Online betting site Victor Chandler has also put up its list, with American novelist and playwright Cormac McCarthy as the 7/1 favourite. If you fancy an outside bet, you can get odds of 33/1 for Bob Dylan, or 50/1 for JK Rowling.

If the betting is anything like last year, there’s bound to be a great deal of movement as speculation increases in the run-up to the announcement. Speaking of speculation, the Literary Saloon has a roundup of the current gossip and predictions for the Literature Prize. On the World Literature Forum, poets appear to be popular predictions, as are American writers. People are clearly hoping that the controversial remarks made by the former head of the Literature Committee about US writers being insular can finally be erased. I’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest speculation as it happens.

Let the predictions begin

Nobel season always unofficially begins when the first predictions start rolling in, and today Thomson Reuters published its annual predictions for the Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Economics Prizes.

Since 1989, the Science business unit at Thomson Reuters has been making these predictions in one form or another, based on analyses of highly cited research papers in the prize fields. I’ll leave it to ScienceInsider to tell you a bit more about the selection process, but top of Thomson Reuters’ 2011 prediction lists are:

Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger for “their tests of Bell’s inequalities and research on quantum entanglement.”
Sajeev John and Eli Yablonovitch for “their invention and development of photonic band gap materials.”
Hideo Ohno for “contributions to ferromagnetism in diluted magnetic semiconductors.” 

Allen J. Bard for “the development and application of scanning electrochemical microscopy.”
Jean M. J. Fréchet, Donald A. Tomalia, and Fritz Vögtle for “the invention and development of dendritic polymers.”
Martin Karplus for “pioneering simulations of the molecular dynamics of biomolecules.”

Brian J. Druker
, Nicholas B. Lydon and Charles L. Sawyers for “their development of imatinib and dasatinib, revolutionary, targeted treatments for chronic myeloid leukemia.”
Robert S. Langer and Joseph P. Vacanti “for their pioneering research in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.”
Jacques F. A. P. Miller for “his discovery of the function of the thymus and the identification of T cells and B cells in mammalian species,” with Robert L. Coffman and Timothy R. Mosmann for “their discovery of two types of T lymphocytes, TH1 and TH2, and their role in regulating host immune response.” 

Douglas W. Diamond
for “his analysis of financial intermediation and monitoring.”
Jerry A. Hausman and Halbert L. White, Jr. for “their contributions to econometrics, specifically the Hausman specification test and the White standard errors test.”
Anne O. Krueger and Gordon Tullock for “their description of rent-seeking behavior and its implications.”

Last year, David Pendlebury, Citation Analyst at Thomson Reuters was quoted as saying: “People who win the Nobel prize publish about five times as much as the average scientist and are cited 20 times as often as the average scientist.” Sounds persuasive, but how good are these predictions? Well, John Matson at Scientific American says that despite a few notable triumphs the overall success rate of the individual picks has been low. Only 13 of the 111 picks made between 2006 and 2010 went on to receive a Nobel Prize, either in the year of their selection or in subsequent years.

If those odds aren’t attractive enough to persuade you to bet the house on any of the above names, you could try some of the predictions made on science blogs, like ChemBark  or Everyday Scientist, and I’ll update this post as the predictions continue to come in. Or perhaps you might not fancy what the pros think, instead heading straight to Springfield, and see the list of names predicted last year by none other than the Simpsons.

22/09 UPDATE: If crowdsourcing is more your thing, Chemistry Views magazine is asking for the crowd to demonstrate its wisdom on who will get this year’s Chemistry Prize.