Happy Nobel season, everyone! I thought I might post my predictions publicly this year, so when I’m proven wildly off-base, I can take solace in the fact that I gave everyone a good laugh. And hey, if I get one right, I’ll be able to brag about it.
I’m limiting myself to 3 serious predictions per prize.
Most of what I know about the current state of biology comes from talking to biophysicists at parties, which makes this a tricky one.
Predictions: This year’s obvious favorite is someone who worked on the mRNA COVID vaccines. A biologist friend suggested optogenetics, so I’ll shamelessly steal it (thanks Eric!). And maybe Mary-Claire King, for discovering BRCA.
Who do I want to win, even though they have no chance? Tang and Wiesenfeld for self-organized criticality.
The last prize was in complex systems, and three of the last five were some form of astrophysics. Not much prizeworthy has happened on the hep-ex front since the Higgs, so I think it’s safe to assume the new one will be in condensed matter or AMO.
Predictions: From an outsider’s point of view, the most likely discoveries to win seem like twisted bilayer graphene (Jarillo-Herrero et al), slow light (Hau et al), and the Bell inequality tests (Aspect et al). Quantum computing strikes me as a possibility in a few years, once the quantum supremacy claims are more substantiated, but not right now.
Who do I want to win, even though they have no chance? Literally any field theorist.
Predictions: Somehow, nobody’s won a Nobel for quorum sensing or metal-organic frameworks yet! Wolf prizes have been awarded for both (Bassler and Yaghi respectively), which should boost the odds a bit more. Drug-design people seem very excited about targeted protein degradation, but I get the sense that it’s pretty new and might just be a flash in the pan, so I’ll use my third prediction on the AlphaFold team.
Who do I want to win, even though they have no chance? The guys who made aducanumab—just to fuck with everyone.
Everyone always bets on Murakami, but they’re starting to sound like the “year of desktop Linux” people. Ngũgĩ would normally be my top choice, but Gurnah won last year, so I think they might wait a bit on him.
Predictions: The vote occurred after Salman Rushdie was stabbed, so assuming someone nominated him, he could be an even more likely contender than usual. Selecting László Krasznahorkai would make me very happy, and what’s more, he’s the sort of writer who the committee tends to like. And while I’m on the theme of “authors who’ve become quizbowl in-jokes,” I could easily see Edwidge Danticat winning as well.
Who do I want to win, even though they have no chance? Thomas Pynchon. Or, if I happen to be on Twitter that day, Joyce Carol Oates.
Peace Prize forecasting is another hard one, if only because it’s so tempting to bet on people who’ve been in the news recently. But since I don’t have the time to Google for notable activists, I’m going to do just that.
Predictions: Alexei Navalny, Greta Thunberg, or Joe Biden.
Who do I want to win, even though they have no chance? Pussy Riot.
Predictions: Most economists I can name have either already won, or (in my opinion) don’t deserve to. The three most famous people who don’t fit that description are Daron Acemoglu, Raj Chetty, and Thomas Piketty.
Who do I want to win, even though they have no chance? Whoever created the first Nobel Prize prediction market.
These are all, of course, based entirely on vibes. Don’t read to much into them. And yes, I’m well aware that the Nobels are flawed and overrated and [gasp] Problematic—that only makes this kind of speculation more fun!
Update (Oct 3): Whoops, it looks like I forgot econ when I was writing this last night. And Alex Shephard’s annual lit prize roundup is finally out!