Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nobel Bets 2012

It is that time of year again when the brightest of the brightest lie awake at night wondering whether they will get that elusive call from Stockholm.  For the rest of us, it is that time of year when we place our bets and take our chances.

Official betting odds have the Higgs boson as the heavy favorite.  See the official odds here.  The odds stand at roughly 1 in 3 that the prize will be somehow related to the Higgs.  Although at least seven people have some possibility of being included in this prize, the favorite combination appears to be Higgs and Englert. 

That said, betting odds are not everything.   The betting odds for Bob Dylan winning the literature prize are now almost 1 in 10.   However, these odds have apparently been artificially pushed up by many people who like the idea of putting their money on the rebellious bard.   (Still, Murukami remains the odds-on favorite for literature).

So do I think Higgs will win the prize?  Yawn.  Yes, I think that is probably the best bet for this year.     (The atlantic monthly says it is a sure thing). 

Reuters, however,  is betting against the Higgs.  They have listed three alternatives here.

1. Photoluminescence in Porous Silicon, Leigh T.  Canham.   Yawn.   Yes, this started a big field, and has been cited many times.  I just don’t think it is interesting enough.  

2. Slow Light, Steven Harris and Lena Hau.  Yeah, this was pretty cool.  And it would be very nice to have another woman physics Nobel Laureate.   But again, I somehow don’t think this is a likely one.

3. Quantum Teleportation, Charles H. Bennett, Gilles Brassard, and William K. Wootters.  This one is interesting, and potentially possible.  But I think it is slightly the wrong combination.  The teleportation paper was 1993 --- and it had seven authors.  I would instead choose Quantum Cryptography (which came first by many years) and award the prize to Bennet and Brassard (for their 1984 paper) along with Stephen Wiesner, for work in the early 1970s which had some of the key ideas in it.  In some ways the ideas that these guys were working on in the 70's and 80's really launched the quantum information field.   (Also Wiesner is an interesting character --- a bit of a hermit genius.)   

I still have my money on Higgs, but the quantum option an interesting one.

And who else should be on the list?   

For a number of years I've been saying Michael Berry for the famous "Berry Phase".  Yes, I know there were several previous discoveries of Berry Phase before Berry, but no one really nailed the issue  the same way that Berry did.    A possible combination (and one I'd really like to see) with Berry would be David Thouless.   I used to think Yakir Aharonov would be a good combination with Berry until I found out about this paper by Ehrenberg and Siday which was ten years before Aharonov-Bohm and has basically the same result.

Another one that no one besides me seems to think is likely is the discovery of neutrino mass by the Super-K collaboration.  I guess the problem there is that it is not clear which person (or people) would get the prize.  It is certainly deserving though.

Anyone else have opinions?


Sid said...

How about this year's Dirac Medal trio? Early days yet, I know, but after graphene...

Berezinski, Kosterlitz and Thouless is another trio I'd be happy to see on a podium someday soon.

Steve said...

BKT I don't think is likely. Thouless, possibly in combination with others. Someone recently suggested that Thouless-Kane might be a good combination. Kane should be in there somewhere I think, but probably we need to wait a few years.