The physics prize is revealed on Tuesday. Will it go to Higgs theorists? I suspect that they will have to wait for next year because the discovery is too recent. Nominations must be in at the start of the year. Yes I am sure they will have already received nominations for all likely candidates but due process should require that they wait for nominations after the discovery I think. CERN are saying that by the end of this year they will have a good indication of the spin on their “new particle consistent with the Higgs boson” and then (if it is zero) they will claim it is the Higgs rather than a spin two graviton. It is of course an arbitrary line in the sand. They could accept that it is the Higgs boson on current results especially if the Tevatron evidence for decay to bottom quarks is accepted, or they could draw it out for many years by requiring that the particle’s self-coupling be checked. Meanwhile our poll of who should get the prize for the Higgs Discovery is still open if you want to play guessing games.
If you also want to guess who will get the Physics prize (or any of the other science prizes) this year you can leave a comment below. If you want to get a really good idea of who is in the running just check the recent awards for other science prizes as listed comprehensively in Wikipedia. Chances are that the laureates for this year will have already been honoured with some other prize, most likely the Wolf Prize in medicine, chemistry, biology or physics. Usually the Nobel committee put them in a different category to make us think that they thought of it independently.
Just for fun I will predict that this year’s physics prize will be technology based and my favourite candidate is Fujio Masuoka for his invention of Flash memory. Just think of the impact that has had on mobile devices. Most of the other crucial components that have made all the best gadgets so powerful in recent years have already been honoured. Get yourself an HD camcorder and slap a 64GB flash card in it, isn’t that worth a Nobel?
Update 8-Oct-2012: The prize for medicine and Physiology was awarded to :-
John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka
for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent
Update 9-Oct-2012: Less than an hour to go and speculation is rife. I still think they will skip over the Higgs boson this year but a few points may indicate otherwise. They wont want to fall into the trap of waiting a year and having one of the main candidates shuffle off his moral coil while he waits. As far as I know they are all in good health but old. Another factor is that media exposure will be better if they award a Higgs Nobel today, in fact there may be a backlash if they dont. Even the austere Nobel committee can’t ignore the lure and ire of publicity.
There have also been hints from the committee that they could award a prize to an organisation, e.g. CERN, ATLAS, CMS, LHC, Fermilab. This could be used as the third share of the prize if two theorists are awarded (Higgs and Englert) or they could issue a joint experimental prize e.g. ATLAS+CMS, LHC+Tevatron etc. Tevatron could be included citing contributions to Higgs and the top quark discovery.
There are also hints that not enough women have won the prize :)
I don’t think there will be a prize for some of the quantum work that is frequently put forward. The Nobel worthy discovery will either be very fundamental and ground breaking or it will have wide-reaching practical application (or clear potential for it) Work that verifies basic predictions of quantum mechanics just does not cut it, in my opinion.
We will know shortly.