The Nobel prize awards are just a couple of weeks away, so this is as good a time as any to speculate about who will be this years Science laureates. Thomson-Reuters make an attempt to second guess the committee each year based on citations. This has not often turned out well and some predictions in previous years did not even fit the usual profile of a Nobel winning discovery, but this year they are looking more on the ball.
In physics (which is the only subject I know enough about to have an opinion) they are suggesting prizes for dark energy, WMAP or surface plasmon photonics. I don’t know about the photonics but it may be too soon for its potential to be realised, and I think the prize will go to fundamental physics this year. A prize for WMAP would seem too close to the prize for COBE in 2005, so I am putting dark energy as favourite this year. Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt are the prime candidates in this field. I don’t think it matters if you think that dark energy has not been proven well enough, because this would be an observational prize and they certainly observed something significant.
One other possibility would be a prize for exoplanets. Campbell, Walker and Yang were the first to say they had found planets around other stars and be confirmed as correct, though it took 14 years before everyone was convinced. Wolszczan and Frail made a better discovery that was confirmed sooner even if the original announcement four years was later than Campbell, Walker and Yang. This would pose a dilemma for the Nobel committee.
Anybody have any other suggestions? What about Chemistry, Medicine and Economics? These are very hard to predict but one technique is to look at what other prizes people have won. Some prizes are good indicators of potential Nobel laureates and Wikipedia makes it easy to find them.
Update: Results are now out for a poll asking who will win the physics price. The choices were all very plausible so now we just have to wait and see what the committiee comes up with in a few days.