Guess the Nobel Prizes

October 2, 2020 • 9:00 am

It’s Nobel Prize season again, and again I’ll have my annual contest, which almost nobody ever wins.  Your job is to guess the Nobel Prizes for this year in all four following categories:

  • Physiology or Medicine
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Literature

You must get all four right to get the prize, which is an autographed copy of either Why Evolution is True or Faith Versus Fact (your choice). And in the book, besides making it out to you, I will add a genuine PCC(E) drawing an animal of your choice.

You can make only one guess per category (no saying “it could be X or Y or Z”). For areas in which more than one person can win—science prizes can be shared by up to three people—it’s best to name just one person, for if you name someone who doesn’t win, you lose the whole category.

Put your choices below. What do you have to lose?

If several people guess all four right, the first entry wins.

The Prize Awards will begin on Monday, with announcements on these dates:

PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE – Monday 5 October, 11:30 CEST at the earliest
The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Wallenbergsalen, Nobel Forum, Nobels väg 1, Solna

PHYSICS – Tuesday 6 October, 11:45 CEST at the earliest
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien, KVA), Sessionssalen, Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm

CHEMISTRY – Wednesday 7 October, 11:45 CEST at the earliest
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sessionssalen, Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm

LITERATURE – Thursday 8 October, 13:00 CEST at the earliest
The Swedish Academy (Svenska Akademien), Börssalen, Källargränd 4, Stockholm

31 thoughts on “Guess the Nobel Prizes

  1. Though it is easier to guess the subject, laureates like Craig Mello have claimed that C. elegans won. Can it be generally credited without individual recognition if readers guess the prize subjects right?

  2. I think the black hole photo will win.

    I was going to guess that even before I read about predictions on the Internet.

    1. Except that astrophysics won last year; and it’s not so clear that the photo (while a stupendous technical achievement) was a “discovery”; and it would be hard to single out 1 to 3 people from that rather large team.

  3. Literature – Maryse Conde

    Physics – Lene Hau

    Chemistry – Jennifer Doudna (shared with others including Emmanuelle Charpentier but if I am limited to one name it is Doudna)

    Medicine – Pamela Bjorkman (again shared with Jack Strominger and others)

    I will also predict the peace prize even though it was not mentioned. – Donald Trump. Just kidding. WHO

  4. Did solar panels win? Since LEDs are solar panels are LEDs, I suppose they did already.

    How about sleep medicine? That’d be a surprise.

    Plant biology – that’s an underrepresented category. Mitchell and that guy at Texas A&M come to mind as previous winners.

    Did molecular motors get it? I thought they did.

    … I’ll have to read the predictions out there – a case was made for Bjorkman….

    1. By this time, I wonder whether the pioneers of solar panel invention are all dead. They have been around for decades I think, but maybe something scientific, not just mass production, made them very much less expensive.

  5. Physiology or Medicine: Epigenetics – David Allis

    I’m not sure about any of my pics but that could be the one I’m most unsure of. But, heck, Epigenetics caused such an uproar all around.

    Chemistry: CRISPR-Cas9 – Jennifer Doudna

    Physics: Manipulating Light – Lene Vestergaard Hau

    Literature: Maryse Condé

  6. Medicine: My UW colleague Mary-Claire King (long overdue), BRCA1 gene.

    Chemistry: Ronald Davis, human genome.

    Physics: Anton Zeilinger, quantum optics.

    Literature: Maryse Condé

  7. I cannot possibly guess as I have no idea who has made breakthroughs in for example chemistry. I now expect it to be a few more years before Doudna et al, due to their dispute over their crispr claims, to share the ‘medicine’ prize.

    Physics – no idea! Surely the time has come for group prizes, or extra prizes ie specific prize for African science, or Asian, so they are better represented.

    I would like the literature prize to go to a non- English writer for similar reasons. It is absurd that the prize is so Indo-European in terms of languages. Where are the Arabic writers etc?!

    As for Peace – it has oft, to the shame of the Norwegians, been given to political people, apart from the IPCC… Obama – what did he do? Drones? How pacific…

    1. Ok physics- after a bit of research!
      Quantum Optics, shared, Lee Rozema

      Organ tissue research, shared, Ali Erturk

      HEH+, Rolf Güsten et al…

      Etel Adnan who is a poet I never heard of!

      I just do not know these fields well enough to know what breakthroughs are significsnt.

      I’ll add the Peace Prize to the WHO, as the Norwegians will like to say stuff you to Trump.

    2. Remember that for literature, possibilities are limited to work that is available in Swedish translation or, I guess, in English, plus whatever other (likely European) languages specific committee members might have enough mastery of to read literature in. Any prize, based in any country, is going to operate with similar structural limitations. It is a limitation, certainly — but not an “absurd” one.

  8. Having read the prediction articles and having read the contestants, I join the chorus of Bjorkman.

    I think Crispr people will get it when there’s an enormous breakthrough, like curing a cancer, which will probably happen soon, for maximal Nobel science awesomeness.

  9. I’m in wild guess mode now.

    Fred Alt
    Steve Harrison
    F.-Ulrich Hartl
    Arthur Horwich
    Winfried Denk
    David Tank
    Wyatt Webb
    Michael Grunstein
    C. David Allis

  10. Inspired the analyses of people far smarter than I…

    Physiology/Medicine: Pamela Bjorkman
    Chemistry: Jennifer Doudna
    Physics: John Perdew
    Literature: Margaret Atwood

    All of which will undoubtedly be wrong… Make the competition easier please! One right answer in any category is a good criterion- it’s impressive enough just predicting a single winner! 😉

  11. Physiology or Medicine: Jennifer Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Feng Zhang for their discovery of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing
    Chemistry: Makoto Fujita for his work on self-assembled supramolecular structures.
    Physics: Lene Vestergaard Hau
    Literature Ngugi wa’Thiong’o

    1. Thanks. You realize, though, that to win you have to hit all three in the Physiology or Medicine category, as per the rules. I’ll give you a chance to just name one of them–perhaps the most likely winner.

  12. Throwing out a few last minute guesses (I’ll go nuts if I don’t get these out of my system):

    Richard Wolfenden
    JoAnne Stubbe

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