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Everyday science

Everyday science

Nobel mania – predictions, discussions, hangouts and more

03 Oct 2014 Tushna Commissariat


By Tushna Commissariat

In this week’s Red Folder, we are looking at all things Nobel-prize-related, as the winner(s) of the 108th Nobel Prize for Physics will be announced in Stockholm next Tuesday.

Kicking off the Nobel round-up is our own infographic that tells you what branch of physics you should take up if you are keen to become a laureate yourself. In case you haven’t seen it already, take a look at it here and work your way through our seven categories that encompass all 107 physics Nobel prizes handed out to date.

Next, watch the video above where the Smithsonian Magazine’s science editor Victoria Jaggard hosts a Google Hangout to discuss the science and scientists predicted to win this year’s award. In it, she talks with Charles Day of Physics Today, Andrew Grant of Science News, Jennifer Ouellette of Cocktail Party Physics and Amanda Yoho of Starts With A Bang!, as they discuss everything from topological conductors to graphene to neutrinos.

When it comes to making Nobel predictions, Thomson Reuters always seems to be on the money with its “citation-data” method of making predictions. Take a look here to see who they have nominated as their top candidates this year – the researchers have studied everything from nanowire photonics to ferroelectric memory devices, as well as the quantum Hall effect and topological insulators. I am tempted to agree with their last prediction thanks to how hot a topic quantum computing is right now. Hamish Johnston, editor of, thinks this may finally be the year for Yakir Arharonov and Michael Berry to win for their work on the geometrical phase in quantum mechanics, though he is prepared to be disappointed!

A careful analysis of our infographic shows that we are due a prize in the atomic, molecular and optical physics category – a good bet would be Deborah Jin for her work on fermionic condensates. Physics World editor Matin Durrani, looking at the year ahead last Christmas, wrote that “Our bet is that the Nobel Prize for Physics will go to work in the field of quantum computing and communication – with Anton Zeilinger being our pick for the award. This area has been so rich with results in recent years that surely its time has come to be honoured in this way. Yet it is still an embarrassment for physics that only two women have ever won a Nobel Prize for Physics – Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 – and a third is unlikely to be added in 2014.” In any case, this year’s prize will be fairly interesting in that there is no sure bet just yet.

Finally, for some non-Nobel-related reading, check out Aatish Bhatia’s story about a sound so loud that it “circled the Earth four times” on the Nautilus magazine website, take a look at the funny drawings on the Math With Bad Drawings blog, created by writer and teacher Ben Orlin, titled “If the US Congress got to legislate physical laws”. Also, our UK readers may have noticed Physics World mentioned on the BBC TV quiz show Eggheads – if you missed it, make sure to watch episode 50 this weekend.

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