Are Nobels out of step with science?

Oct 05, 2011 by Marlowe Hood

This year's crop of Nobel prizes has sharpened a sometimes bitter debate as to whether science's top awards should each be limited to just three individuals in an era of collaborative research.

These days eureka moments in medicine, physics and chemistry are rare compared with a century ago, when giants such as and Pierre and Marie Curie strode the scientific stage.

Instead, breakthroughs commonly come from collective labour involving dozens, sometimes hundreds, of minds working across multiple sub-disciplines in lavishly funded organisations.

"It is a trend in . We increasingly see huge collaborations," notably in astronomy and genomics, said Roger Highfield, editor of the weekly British magazine New Scientist.

"You do wonder if it is entirely fair to single out three individuals."

The 2011 physics prize, he noted, went to three astronomers involved in two big teams who discovered that the was accelerating, not slowing as thought.

"This is one of the increasingly frequent instances when the is damagingly constrained by its tradition that a prize can't be shared between more than three individuals," said Martin Rees, Britain's Royal and former head of its academy of sciences, the Royal Society.

"It would have been fairer -- and would send a less distorted message about how this kind of science is actually done -- if the award had been made collectively to all members of the two groups."

Roger Davies, a professor of at the University of Oxford, noted that the two teams of astrophysicists included "specialists in observational techniques, instrumentation, data analysis and theory -- the result requires all of these skills.

"In such large collaborations the team leaders are usually those who conceived and directed the investigation, but to achieve the result usually requires each team member to make an imaginative, creative contribution."

The rumble flared into open protest in French circles in 2008 when Jean-Claude Chermann, who played a key role in the discovery of the AIDS virus, had to watch two former colleagues collect the Nobel for medicine.

Jules Hoffmann, who shares this year's medicine Nobel with two other researchers from another laboratory for work on the immune system, would not comment on the limit rule but noted "science has become a much more collaborative process, everyone agrees on that."

"I consider this prize, number one, as a prize for innate immunity. Number two, it's for the team that spearheaded the efforts," he told AFP by phone.

Not all scientists agree the Nobel system needs revision.

"You can't really give a prize to a team of 10 people," said French physicist Albert Fert, who won the Nobel in 2007.

"It dilutes the interest of the prize. These are the rules of the game."

In an apparent exception to the trend toward collaboration, the Nobel for chemistry went on Wednesday to a single scientist, Daniel Shechtman of Israel, for discovering so-called quasi-crystals.

But even this award was contested.

"For us, in the chemistry community, the key publication (announcing the discovery) was signed by three major figures," Luc Barbier, co-head of a research unit in the IRAMIS physics and chemistry institute near Paris.

"It seems evident to us that (Denis) Gratias and (John) Cahn should also have been recognized," he told AFP by phone.

The number limitation was imposed in the late 1960s, in part because the number of recipients had begun to multiply.

Even with the new restriction in place, prizewinners in all three categories doubled from the first half of the 20th century to the second half.

In the last decade, there were nearly half as many as during the period 1900 to 1950.

"If something is discovered at CERN and there are 3,000 people in the collaboration, what are we going to do then," said Lars Bergstrom, Secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physics, referring to the giant test-bed for particle physics in Switzerland.

"We are not there yet, but are very much aware of the problem. We will see what can be done."

Another grouse that is commonly heard about the Nobel science awards is that the categories were set down at a time when there were relatively few scientific disciplines, divided by clear-cut lines.

Newer disciplines, or those that cut across categories, such as biotechnology, get left out, say critics.

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Temple
not rated yet Oct 05, 2011
This argument isn't new. Why didn't the Curies's assistants share in the prize?

No doubt that a great many Nobels have been awarded to those who have been directing the science which is often performed by a team of 'technicians'.

Of course, that's not to say that selecting individual reward or award should be done disproportionately to their contribution.
Corban
5 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2011
Scope creep. The interdisciplines should create their own prizes, like the Fields Medal for mathematics. The problem with opening Nobels to interdisciplines is that the number would explode. If there are N separate disciplines, then the number of possible combinations is nC2 nC3 = A crapload.
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2011
The another problem is, the number of physicists increased in two orders of magnitude during last century - whereas the number of Nobel prize positions remained limited. When you dilute the win chance too much, then the prize reward vanishes and the controversies connected with honoring of limited number of people increase. On the other hand, if you increase the number of prizes, their impact will decrease too because human memory is limited. Who remembers the winners of Majorana Prize, for example?
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2011
The another question is, the Nobel prize is deeply missinterpreted and misappropriated with community of theoretic physicists. Mr. Nobel was solely practical man, who didn't like the math at all. His prize was dedicated exclusively for findings of practical importance. The people like the Podkletnov, J.F.Prins, Focardi and Piantelli (founders of antigravity, room superconductivity and cold fusion) should deserve the Nobel prize - not the founders of nonexisting gravitational waves, the promoters of various trippy useless theories the less. The really fundamental findings were always done with individuals, not large collectives.
Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Oct 05, 2011
Dyson didn't get his.

Nobody does.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Oct 05, 2011
When someone is saying, every finding can become useful in less or distant perspective, then the authors of such findings should simply wait for its application. Because its evident, the gravitational waves, Higgs boson or dark matter have no practical usage at the scope of limited lifespan of human, such controversial prizes would remain ruled out automatically for ever - and we would get Nobel prize for enough people again.

In addition, the practical importance of the finding - not its importance for closed scientific community should be judged. Maybe the description of photoelectric effect is important for some theorists - but Einstein didn't found neither invented this effect, so he shouldn't get the Nobel prize for it. If we would apply the utilitarian criterion consequentially, we would see, the number of Nobel prize adepts is way not so high, as it's generally believed.
axemaster
not rated yet Oct 05, 2011
I'm confused. Isn't the Nobel supposed to be awarded for outstanding work on the part of the individual recipient?

If that's the case, then isn't it also true that most of the people in a collaboration are doing pretty average work, regardless of the impressiveness of the discovery? I mean, what if one of my colleagues made a big discovery? That wouldn't stop him from being a mediocre scientist.

So why do people expect the number of recipients to rise, just because more people are involved in solving a problem?
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2011
Are Nobels out of step with science?
lol Whatever Marlowe. Yes.
People with personal contact to him say Grisi.
Follow his example.
Perleman.
Overshadows all. Forsaken. The Fields: a token less than a gesture of insincerity. The Nobel even less so.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Oct 05, 2011
So why do people expect the number of recipients to rise, just because more people are involved in solving a problem?
Because the recipients wouldn't find the things like the dark matter alone without help of their collaborators. After all, who deserves more attention: a brilliant, but incoherent and lazy genius - or rather dumb, but dedicated and hardly working interpretor? Or maybe the person, who sponsored whole this research philanthropically?
bewertow
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 05, 2011
The another question is, the Nobel prize is deeply missinterpreted and misappropriated with community of theoretic physicists. Mr. Nobel was solely practical man, who didn't like the math at all. His prize was dedicated exclusively for findings of practical importance. The people like the Podkletnov, J.F.Prins, Focardi and Piantelli (founders of antigravity, room superconductivity and cold fusion) should deserve the Nobel prize - not the founders of nonexisting gravitational waves, the promoters of various trippy useless theories the less. The really fundamental findings were always done with individuals, not large collectives.


You must be mentally impaired
Deesky
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 06, 2011
The another problem is, the number of physicists increased in two orders of magnitude during last century - whereas the number of Nobel prize positions remained limited. When you dilute the win chance too much, then the prize reward vanishes and the controversies connected with honoring of limited number of people increase.

The Nobels aren't a lottery. It doesn't matter how many researchers there are, it's about the science that is produced and that is exceptional enough to get the award. It is right that the team leaders who initiated and directed the research be recognized, rather than the multiplicity of technicians and other helpers.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2011
Dr. Prins has no actual evidence to support his claim of superconductivity. He never did the needed tests. It was all speculation based assumptions he did not test.

He is selling chips that are based on his theories. Or trying to anyway. I have yet to see one bit of evidence as to wether they work or not.

When he EVIDENCE he MAY have something that deserves a Noble. People get Nobels AFTER the evidence arrives.

Ethelred
rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Oct 06, 2011
Dr. Prins has no actual evidence to support his claim of superconductivity. He never did the needed tests
Which needed tests? He published his findings in peer-reviewed journal. This finding has anything to do with his later ideas about superconductivity, which were never peer-reviewed (..and frankly, I don't care about them at all). The independent verification of experiments (not theories) is not a business of Mr. Prins - but a whole human society, which is motivated into such findings. After all, in the same way, like at the case of cold fusion and another superimportant findings.

We apparently have no mechanism, how to enforce scientific community for verification of these findings - no matter, how significant they are. And vice-versa: we have no tools, how to prohibit the verification of silly ideas (like the Higgs boson or gravitational waves), despite they were refused with experiments sufficiently.
rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2011
it's about the science that is produced and that is exceptional enough to get the award

It's about politics, which can be documented easily with number of controversies and with reliability of Nobel prize award predictions. It it would be so clean business, we could predict the Nobelists in much reliable way.

http://en.wikiped...oversies
Ethelred
5 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2011
Which needed tests? He published his findings in peer-reviewed journal.
Anything that actually showed a single sign that there was superconduction as opposed to him just claiming that it was occurring based on a string of dependent speculations that were dubious at each step.

He NEVER even tested the resistance for crying out loud. He just ASSUMED it was zero.

And Oliver published his crap in a peer reviewed journal as well.

The independent verification of experiments (not theories) is not a business of Mr. Prins
How about ANY verification even by him?

After all, in the same way, like at the case of cold fusion and another superimportant findings.
Which has no verification for the simple reason that there hasn't been any results to verify beyond the remote possibility that a tiny amount of tritium might have been produced. By tiny I am talking about a decimal point with a large number of zeroes following, so many the number of zeroes was speculative.

Ethelred
rawa1
1 / 5 (4) Oct 06, 2011
He NEVER even tested the resistance for crying out loud. He just ASSUMED it was zero
You're just lying and inventing stuff (not a first time, BTW). These experiments and their results are described clearly here: http://rtn.elektr...rins.pdf

Look, 63% of Americans don't believe in evolution and they're refusing all evidence of it. Why some anonymous troll couldn't do the same at the case of J.F.Prins finding? You aren't first and last ignorant on the Earth.

For me the physics is an experimental science - and the only way, how to refuse the claims about diamond superconductivity, superluminal neutrinos or cold fusion is just another peer-reviewed experiment. If such attempt is missing for years, then the physicists aren't doing their jobs or we are lacking a mechanism, how to enforce them into it.

Because I'm perfectly sure, these experiments are so important, they should be validated despite of what anonymous trolls on the web are thinking about it.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2011
Instead, breakthroughs commonly come from collective labour involving dozens, sometimes hundreds, of minds working across multiple sub-disciplines in lavishly funded organisations.

I would argue that the 'lavishly funded' part is pure propaganda. Certainly doesn't reflect my experience in the scientific community.

findings of practical importance. The people like the Podkletnov, J.F.Prins, Focardi and Piantelli (founders of antigravity, room superconductivity and cold fusion) should deserve the Nobel prize

As soon as their 'findings' can be duplicated, verified and demonstrated they will get their prize. Until then: No Nobels for quacks.

Side note: Perelman didn't get a Nobel. He was offered the Fields Medal (there are no Nobel prizes for mathematics)

Maybe the description of photoelectric effect is important for some theorists

Photomultipliers and the invention of TV (early cameras were based on this effect) aren't 'important enough' for you?
yyz
5 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2011
"Maybe the description of photoelectric effect is important for some theorists"

"Photomultipliers and the invention of TV (early cameras were based on this effect) aren't 'important enough' for you?"

________________________________________

LOL antialias. And where would *observational* astronomy be without photoelelectric photometers and CCDs? Still estimating the brightness of stars by eye!
Ethelred
5 / 5 (2) Oct 06, 2011
Really Zephir. You calling ANYONE an anonymous troll is the height of hypocrisy. You are trying to post autonomously, though I know who you are, you have used profiles with false data, and created multiple sockpuppets, on THIS VERY THREAD.

Whereas I am using the same handle I have used for over a decade. Online I AM Ethelred.

So that post was a troll to double your hypocrisy.

Nice link. Where is the actual test for superconductivity as opposed to multiple step assumptions of what Dr. Prins THINKS is going on. He keeps trying to calculate his way to conclusions supporting his claim instead actually measuring zero resistance.

I have read it before. Didn't see anything new this time. IF you think it is there how about you copy and paste just what you think is an actual test showing superconduction.

Lying is for life and death or a good joke. A troll that uses sockpuppets is neither life nor death and while a joke its a bad one.

Ethelred
rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Oct 06, 2011
As soon as their 'findings' can be duplicated, verified and demonstrated they will get their prize.
Of course they can be duplicated? What prohibits in their duplication? All these experiments are well documented in the available literature.

Room temperature Superconductivity: http://rtn.elektr...rins.pdf
Cold fusion: http://www.lenr-c...xces.pdf
Antigravity beams: http://arxiv.org/.../0209051

I can be a troll without problem, but I didn't published these findings. My person is solely irrelevant to it. Why mainstream physics asks money from my taxes for useless research, while it ignores the replication of these useful findings?

It's my legitimate question.
rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Oct 06, 2011
You people apparently don't realize a single thing: the evolution state of civilization depends just on the way, in which it produces energy. If we don't develop a new, more effective and safe way of energy production, then the fossil fuel burning or nuclear fission, whole civilization will go to the hell in pretty painful way, no matter how advanced it will be. It will hurt you, it will hurt all of us, because the only way, which people are using for solving of global problems is global war - nothing else. In this case this war will be nuclear. http://www.altern...y/51368/

All people, who already lost their homes during financial crisis should ask, why scientists are ignoring these findings. And they should make conclusion from this situation.
hush1
not rated yet Oct 06, 2011
Side note: Perelman didn't get a Nobel. He was offered the Fields Medal (there are no Nobel prizes for mathematics)- AP


No objections.
The comparison is fair. The Fields is to math what Nobel is to physics.
Grisi wanted to share the Fields with Hamilton. We still don't know if the Fields committee had gone for this if Grisi was still willing to accept a shared prize.

Nobel winners don't do this for the sake of others, do they?
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2011
The French writer Jean-Paul Sartre refused the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964, the only person ever to have done so. He explained that his personal belief was that writers should not accept awards which could prejudice their artistic freedom. Le Duc Tho also refused the Peace Prize in 1973 and four other laureates were obliged to decline by their governments, including Boris Pasternak (Literature Prize 1958).

On the other hand, who ever declined the Fields price with exception of Perelman? After all, in my private opinion, he declined Nobel prize not because of his generosity, but because he affraid of St. Peterburg's mafia, where he believes he's known for that money.. He's paranoid freak, who afraid of everything.

http://english.pr...relman-0
hush1
not rated yet Oct 06, 2011
I will not conjecture. Grisi stated Hamilton is to share the prize with him.
To me that is a selfless act for the sake of another.
Perelman is the exception in every way.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2011
Room temperature Superconductivit
No evidence in the paper actually supports the conclusion. I did ask what you thought was evidence.

but I didn't published these findings.
They are papers not findings until there is corroboration.

Why mainstream physics asks money from my taxes for useless research
It doesn't. You complain, frequently, about the USA's taxes and decisions. You don't pay those taxes or vote for those people. You are not an American.

replication of these useful findings?
What replication? In response you posted UNREPLICATED questionable papers.

You people apparently don't realize a single thing: the evolution state of civilization depends just on the way, in which it produces energy
We understand it just fine. YOU don't understand that fantasy will not change reality. Unless you happen to be poor and write as successfully as JK Rowling.

So where is the evidence in Dr. Prins paper and where is the replication of it?

Ethelred
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2011
You don't pay those taxes or vote for those people. You are not an American
Don't afraid, I'm paying LHC and similar useless stuff.
No evidence in the paper actually supports the conclusion
Prove it...;-)
Ethelred
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 09, 2011
You are the one claiming the evidence it there. And I asked you first to show what evidence you think is so telling. I don't see any and neither have others that looked at it.

The LHC is trivial in cost considering the number of nations contributing. AND it is NOT a waste of money. Unless you happen to be one of the many wackjobs here that think of Ann Rand as the Goddess of economics and politics. Which would mean that you would sufficiently deranged that you haven't a clue as to what is reasonable.

See Marjon and several others here for examples of how Ann Rand can cause brain damage in susceptible young men.

Ethelred
sherriffwoody
not rated yet Oct 09, 2011
If they're that upset about the nobel prize's rules, make up another award for groups/teams that is equivilent to the nobel prize.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2011
See Marjon and several others here for examples of how Ann Rand can cause brain damage in susceptible young men.

Ethelred


Marjon is a guy? I've always thought otherwise.

And I've been a modified Randite since 1977 or an ~2,4 on Pournelle's Political Axis.

http://www.baen.c...axes.jpg
FrankHerbert
0.7 / 5 (48) Oct 10, 2011
And I've been a modified Randite since 1977 or an ~2,4 on Pournelle's Political Axis.


So what you're saying is you are a 'progressive'? At least according to marjon you would be. Marjon enforces The One more than The Funk itself.

Also: Note that Naziism and Fascism fall in the same quadrant as conservatism, while socialism, liberalism, and communism fall in another quadrant. :)
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2011
Any prize awarding in any field would lose the attraction if prizes were given to organisations as opposed to individuals.

Already Einstein's relativity theory wasn't called Einstein's but just "relativity theory" for many years, and maybe correctly so ... as Poincaré, Lorentz and Joseph Larmor did all the math.

IF there had been given a Nobel Prize for "the relativity theories", then maybe a "team" to award would look something like this: James Clerk Maxwell, Joseph Larmor, Hendrik Lorentz, Henri Poincaré, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Hermann Minkowski, Max von Laue, Arnold Sommerfeld, Max Born, Gustav Herglotz, Richard C. Tolman and why not Ole Rømer, the first one to push our minds into "something" that is "the fastest", by calculating the first numeric value of light-speed!

Before, a take where "the fastest" was infinite, was an alternative interpretation of our "world".
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2011
Marjon is a guy? I've always thought otherwise.
Whyeverfor? Skeptic Heretic thinks he figured out who Marjon really is. A minor politician. Marjon says SH makes mistsakes, tells lies BUT while he tries to imply that SH had it wrong he has NEVER said that he wasn't that person.

And no I can't remember the name at the moment. JOHN is part of it.

And I've been a modified Randite since 1977 or an ~2,4 on Pournelle's Political Axis
That explains the occasional signs of political and economic brain damage. I am pretty sure Pournelle contracted the disease from Heinlein.

Rand Liberterianism, almost all versions of Liberterianism, have the same exact problem as Marxism does. They are both based on Aliens not humans. Randism in particular has this bizarre idea that somehow humans in government are inherently evil and humans in business will magically do the right thing and never conspire against others. This is clearly delusional.

Ethelred
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2011
Also: Note that Naziism and Fascism fall in the same quadrant as conservatism, while socialism, liberalism, and communism fall in another quadrant. :)
Rubbish. To marjon they are all the exact same thing as Hitlerism/Stalinism. And to anyone reasonable they are all different. Even Nazism/Fascism are a bit different, but that is mostly a matter of the different cults of personality that ran each.

The only correct political economic theory is PRACTICALITY. No system is correct at all times. All depend on humans who are NOT only individuals nor only a species. We are both and neither depending on circumstances thus any system dependent on humans being purely a herd or purely individuals are doomed to failure.>>
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2011
The US first tried a system that was quite close to a Libertarian individual state based system except allowing slavery but some Libertarians even try to justify slavery as a contract matter. It failed and the Constitution replaced it with a much stronger blend of individuals and states at multiple levels. It is fairly clear to me that at least someone involved in this might have understood that improvements in communication and speed of trade over time would change the balance yet so many even today don't have a clue on it.

Ethelred
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2011
Already Einstein's relativity theory wasn't called Einstein's but just "relativity theory" for many years, and maybe correctly so ... as Poincaré, Lorentz and Joseph Larmor did all the math.
That is wrong. Einstein did around 200 pages of math for GR.

In any case neither he nor anyone else got a Nobel for GR or SR. He got his Nobel for the Photoelectric effect.

Ethelred