Sunday, October 05, 2008

2008 Nobel Prize in Physics

Surprisingly, I haven't seen the usual blogfest of speculation about the Nobel Prize in Physics. The announcement will be this Tuesday. I will throw out my same suggestion as last year, Michael Berry and Yakir Aharonov for nonclassical phase factors in quantum mechanics, though the fact that the prize went to condensed matter folks last year means that this is probably less likely. Another pair I've heard floated every couple of years is Guth and Linde for inflationary cosmology. Any ideas out there?


Brad Holden said...

I rather doubt that inflation will get a Nobel. The WMAP is a nice confirmation, but it is still pretty subtle in the sense the n is a fixed number and there is no need for a running index, and Omega_matter + Omega_lamda = 1.

Beyond that, what do you say? I mean, one of the big goals of inflation was to make stuff go away.

But I could easily be missing something, as I have not been paying as much attention to cosmology as I should

Anonymous said...

I've been betting Aharonov and Berry for many years. However, this year I'm going to switch my bet and put my money on the discovery of neutrino mass (or neutrino oscillations) by super-K in japan in 1998. I'm not sure who the leader of that project was, but it was a pretty significant experiment -- and now it has been verified by other groups.

Douglas Natelson said...

Hi Brad - Yeah, that's why I'm a bit of a skeptic about the Guth/Linde possibility. Given all the issues up in the air about dark matter and dark energy, it seems less likely than it would have seemed only a few years ago.

Hey Steve - Please drop me an email and let me know what's up these days. The one flaw I see with your idea is that they just gave the 2002 Nobel to one of the big architects of the Kamiokande experiment. Still, neutrino oscillations is definitely an appropriate discovery.

Gautam said...

One problem with Berry-Aharonov is that the idea of non-classical phases was formulated prior to Berry's work by S. Pancharatnam in the context of parallel transport of polarization states. I don't know if this fact will weigh with the Nobel committee. My guess is that Geim/Noveselov for graphene is a strong possibility. Also, Ijima for Carbon nanotubes, although that might be more of a chemistry prize. Finally - my personal favourite - Schectman + Penrose for quasicrystals (although this leaves out many important names, such as Levine and Steinhardt etc.)

CarlBrannen said...

I hadn't realized that no one had ever got a prize for Berry-Pancharatnam phase. It's one of those things that should have been discovered in 1930.

Most of the time it's explained in a rather complicated way, but it exists even in qubits. A simple way of describing Berry phase is that it is a complex observable. That is, an observable that is not real.

Brad Holden said...

Well, it went to symmetry breaking. My Ph.D. alma mater has yet another Nobel prize winnner.