Contest! Guess the Nobel Laureates

October 2, 2010 • 4:22 pm

The Nobel Prizes will be announced starting next week, with Physiology or Medicine on Monday, Physics on Tuesday, Chemistry on Wednesday, Literature on Thursday, Peace on Friday, and Economics (ugh—they ought to stop giving this one) on Monday, October 11.  Let’s guess who will win my two favorite prizes: Literature, and Physiology or Medicine.

You can guess one winner for each category. It’s possible that two or more people will share the Medicine/Physiology prize, and if you prefer you can guess more than one. If you do this, however, you won’t win unless everyone in the set shares the prize. (This keeps people from entering a long list of names in hopes that one will hit.)

Each winner gets a personally autographed copy of WEIT.  The first guesser in each category gets the prize. In the unlikely event that someone guesses both winners correctly, a book will also go to the next correct guesser.

Contest closes for Medicine/Physiology at 9:00 a.m. GMT, Monday, Oct. 4.

Contest closes for Literature at 12:30 p.m. GMT, Thursday, Oct. 7

And be a bit knowledgable (though this isn’t required): briefly state what work you think the prize will be awarded for (in Medicine/Physiology) or one or two of the works that support the Literature prize. Doing this for literature will point us to things worth reading.

75 thoughts on “Contest! Guess the Nobel Laureates

  1. Although I have no clue about the medicine prize (Jan Andersson, who’s on the Nobel committee, visited my lab last week and I totally forgot to ask him!), I think this will finally be the year that Salman Rushdie wins the literature prize. I’m not sure how he’s been overlooked for so long!

    1. Really? Because, to my mind, happening upon an oral contraceptive isn’t exactly material for the Nobel prize in Medicine or Physiology– the prize is essentially a de facto prize in biology, which means that the research being recognised has broad and deep import to biologists.

      Since someone said Till and McCullough, and being a Toronto partisan, I’ll say Tony Pawson.

      1. So the award should only be given to someone who knew at birth a great scientific discovery and refused to tell anyone for fifty years? Or perhaps the pizza delivery person or the fetch-me-coffee person should get the award, because without those services the scientists would not have been in a proper state to wow us?

        Seriously, scientists can blow other scientists’ work out of the water, giving us a new ground from which to work and/or they can trudge along, doing good science, contributing indirectly to the accumulation of reliable knowledge.

        Essentially, I chosen Carl because the odds are in his favor to win, and I want to win a copy of WEIT.

        1. Okay, I didn’t mean to offend. I only wanted to point out that the nature of the prize is such that it would be highly unlikely for Carl and his coworkers to be awarded. I otherwise don’t understand your reply.

          1. I’ll amend my statement and say that it appears Carl Djerassi is a longshot on some people’s lists for the prize in Chemistry, which makes more sense than Medicine or Physiology.

    2. Djerassi is a polymath chemist/ writer/ artist. Though not quite Nobel quality in literature, he is a very good writer of what he calls “science-in-fiction.” I’d recommend any of his novels (Cantor’s Dilemma, The Bourbaki Gambit, Menachem’s Seed).

  2. The prize in Economics is given by the Bank of Sweden (or something like that) and isn’t even an official Nobel prize. That fact notwithstanding, what’s wrong with it? Deserving thinkers like Paul Krugman win all the time. Maybe you’re jaded by the libertarian types from Chicago that have won several in the past? Remember, it’s a prize for their academic contributions, not political persuasions.

    1. There’s plenty wrong with it. Something is rotten in the house of economics.

      Keeping ideology a bit further away and emperic knowledge a bit closer would help. The fake Nobel is not helping.

      1. Care to provide any evidence of what’s wrong with econ or even an example of a Nobel winner that won for their ideology rather than their work? I don’t find blanket assertions all that convincing.

      2. Agreed with Chris. When you say, “Something is rotten in the house of economics”, I presume would you mean is, “Economics has not provided us with a full-proof and widely accepted theory allowing us to avoid recessions, financial crises and unemployment.” You are taking one unbelievably difficult problem and presuming that because economists have not solved that problem they must have made no progress in understanding the world.

  3. Jerry – do you also think they should stop giving a Nobel Prize in physics because climatologists can’t predict when the next hurricane will strike?

    Economists do more than macroeconomic forecasting (and in fact, most academic economists do nothing of the sort). Why are randomized experiments showing the impact of de-worming on educational outcomes in the developing world less scientific or otherwise less worthy than randomized experiments in a biology lab?

  4. Bert Vogelstein – for HNPCC, p53 etc.
    Ian McEwan – for Atonement.

    Arnold Levine should win, but won’t.
    Salman Rushdie should win, but won’t.

  5. I work at the Karolinska and have heard a few rumors about this being the year for epigenetics for the Medicine and Physiology prize – although I’m not sure who is the leading scientist in this regard. Perhaps they might split it between a few pioneers of the field like Andy Fienberg and Bert Vogelstein (although Vogelstein might also win it along with Bob Weinberg if they award the prize for cancer genetics).

  6. I think the price for Medicine and Physiology should go to the discovery of Channelopsins (at the chance of nobody agreeing with me). For those who don’t know, these are ion channels from a phototactic organism that can be genetically expressed in neurons or non-functional photocells. Neurons can thus be electrically regulated with light pulses and photocells reactivated. The discoverers are G. Nagel et al from the lab of Prof. Bamberg. Han and Boyden should be awarded as well for the discovery of halorhodopsin from archae which is a light-driven chloride pump that can be wonderfully coexpressed with channelrhodopsin to manipulate cells both ways.

  7. For Medecine or Physiology I too would propose the initiators of stem cell research, Ernest A. McCulloch and James E. Till. This field of research is so very promising, from a therapeutic and a ‘purely scientific’ point of view – and it has also a strong societal relevance.

  8. For Literature I propose biologist E.O. Wilson, for his complete oeuvre – fiction (‘Anthill’) and non-fiction – and his masterly formulations of complex biological ideas.

    1. It’s a shame they don’t seem to give it to “non-creative” writers anymore. Bertrand Russel won it, once upon a time. I wish Wilson would get it.

  9. The research Maria Isabel Covas, who discovered that Olive oil can cure Cancer may share the prize with two more researchers, who guided the group

  10. For literature (this is not a prediction, merely a pointer to some very different writers who may be deserving): the Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom, who can be be wondefully wity and moving, as in ‘The Following Story’, which is the work of his I most like; the English – and Marxist – playwright Edward Bond, who has also written some remarkable plays for young people, my favourite being ‘At the Inland Sea’, in which the ghost of a woman who perished with her baby in the Holocaust visits the bedroom of a working-class English boy; the poets (one English, one Irish) Geoffrey Hill (whose moral – and Christian – niceness, particularly as expressed in his critical essays, has come to leave me rather cold, but who has quite extraordinary gifts of evocation, notably in his great long poem, from some years back now,’The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy’, and Ciaran Carson, an Irish poet originally from the north who has a wonderfully witty and savage improvisatory style.

  11. literature:
    philip roth
    (portnoy’s complaint, the human stain, everyman etc.)

    ralph steinman
    (for his work on dendritic cells)

  12. I think they’ll stop the American boycott, and award the Literature prize to Thomas Pynchon. The citation will likely mention his “complex” and/or “daring” experimentations in narrative prose, or some such thing. It’ll probably mention Gravity’s Rainbow in particular.

  13. Physiology and Medicine: Pierre Chambon (France), Ronald Evans (USA) & Elwood Jensen (USA), for the discovery of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily.

  14. Haruki Murakami for literature – no idea who might be in the frame for physiology. I cannot hold too much respect for these things though – they should have a straight biology prize & the peace prize is I think daft but then I am a cynic. Remember who won in 1979..? Yes, ‘Mother’ Theresa. Oh & Obama has brought so much peace to the world in the last year.

  15. As far as I can see none of the suggestions here are correct for the medicin-Nobel. It’s in the news here in Denmark, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to spill the beans here???
    Anyway it’s on the Nobel website. (So much for not spilling beans in the age of the internet 😉 )

  16. For Literature I’ll join the Thomas Pynchon crowd. It seems overdue, and I think he’s more likely to get the Nobel than Murakami or Rushdie. The commitee does have a tendency to dig up more obscure writers, and Pynchon fits the bill (and he’s such an amazing writer).
    (Though I do find both Murakami and Rushdie most excellent options as well. Rushdie being the writer of one of my absolute favourite novels and all)

  17. I am a bit late for the contest, the pyhsiology laureate has already been announced, and my real favorite name in the literature race has been proposed already (that’d be Murakami). But for the sake of grabbing a signed copy of WEIT, I’ll throw in the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

  18. For the literature prize, Alice Munro, for every short story she has written.

    Re: “things worth reading”

    I recommend

    Stalking the Holy: The Pursuit of Saint Making, by Michael Higgins.

    While Higgins is pro Catholic church, he is cynical about some aspects of saint making and this book is certainly relevant with the announcement of the beatification of J. H. Newman.

  19. Oh, and I have to admit I haven’t read any of Ngũgĩ’s books but from what I have been told he really is worth reading. His work is concerned with the Kenyan struggle for independance and the post-colonial development of the country. Notable works include “Petals of blood” and “A grain of wheat”, more recently “Wizard of the crow”.

  20. Tomas Tranströmer for literature.

    I must say I am declaring this because reading about it, he is the favourite! If he does wins, I shall be buying his work post haste out of gratitude.

  21. Have ignored all this til now, but I’m heartened to learn that some people think Pynchon might win. He’s my favorite!

  22. Peace Prize = Bill and Melinda Gates.

    For giving away their fortune for such things as AIDS prevention in Africa.

    Taking a flier on that one.

  23. For literature, how about American poet Mark Strand? I really like a lot of his work. “Man and Camel” is a short recent collection that is very nice.

  24. Since the Nobel committee is way overdue to end its boycott of American writers I’ll suggest either Cormac McCarthy for early novels like “Blood Meridien” or Philip Roth for his late work, particularly the Zuckerman novels.

  25. Syrian-Lebanese poet Adonis, (Ali Ahmad Said Asbar)

    ‘We will die if we do not create gods/We will die if we do not kill them’

    Perhaps too controversial to win, but someone everyone should read. “A Time Between Ashes And Roses” contains his now famous “Funeral for New York”

  26. Rumours here in Scandinavia now say Cormac McCarthy will get it !?! Tomorrow is the day for the Literature prize.

  27. Literature – António Lobo Antunes. For his overall adult life completely taken over by an obsession with the written word (supposedly he decided to be a writer from 7 years old). He goes back to the same themes but always trying to say it (write it) in some more essential form (?) – maybe in a similar path to Samuel Beckett. His short texts are a good introduction (not sure if available in English; in French as ‘Chroniques’). For an introduction to his novels I would suggest a mid-career one like ‘The Death of Carlos Gardel’. Some other titles: What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire? / Yesterday I Haven’t Seen You in Babylon / Don’t Go Through That Dark Night So Fast (don’t think it is available in English, there is one of his small texts with the same title)…

  28. I say Liu Xiaobo for peace… The Swedes may avoid him for ‘political’ reasons, but he seems likely. Otherwise, I second the suggestion that Bill & Malinda Gates may get it.

  29. For Economics, I’m picking Ernst Fehr and Matthew Rabin. Richard Thaler and Robert Shiller are also good choices. All four work in the field of behavioral economics. Thaler and Shiller’s main contributions are in behavioral finance. Fehr and Rabin deal with emotions.

    People in this Blog might like Fehr’s work in particular. His results are closely related results from evolutionary game theory.

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