How to Win the Nobel Prize

I’m too busy to write much on the blog just this moment, and besides, there’s nothing of great interest I can think of that need’s writing about. So, I’ll take up commenter Shantanu’s suggestion and try and stir up a little trouble with two quick topics related to the Nobel Prize.

  • Norman Dombey recently posted on the arXiv Abdus Salam: A Reappraisal. PART I. How to Win the Nobel Prize which more or less seems to argue that Salam didn’t deserve his 1979 Nobel. He describes a lot of history I didn’t know, but I’m not completely convinced. Part of the argument seems to be that he stole the idea from Weinberg, and didn’t even know the importance of what he had stolen, but my impression was that no one, not even Weinberg, thought very much of the unified electroweak theory at the time. A quick look at the paper in his collected papers that I take to be the 1968 one that justified the Nobel to him appears to discuss the crucial points: a gauge theory with Higgs mechanism.

    Unfortunately I don’t have more time now to look into this history carefully. If someone expert on this history has comments on the Dombey claims, that would be interesting.

  • One way to win the prize is to do revolutionary work. This year’s prize will be announced October 4, and for the past few years I haven’t had much in the way of thoughts about obvious candidates. After reading Richard Panek’s The 4% Universe early this year and learning more of the story of the discovery of the acceleration of the universe, I’m pretty sure that sooner or later there will be a Nobel Prize for that, maybe this year. Those better informed than me can speculate about what the exact names will be that will go on the prize.
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    57 Responses to How to Win the Nobel Prize

    1. MathPhys says:

      Trulo, You are perfectly correct. But as far as I know, teh gentlemen that I mentioned were not aware of Skyrme’s work. Who re discovered Skyrme’s work? Was it Witten?

      Thomas L,

      Dotsenko and Fateev’s work is based on an earlier paper by Dotsenko alone. The latter is based on the BPZ paper and distinct from it, in content as well as in time.

    2. Trulo says:

      Who re discovered Skyrme’s work? Was it Witten?

      I know Balachandran worked on it, and I believe it was him who suggested Witten to look into it. But the truth is I only know that story at the level of unsubstantiated rumors.

      By the way, isn’t Dirac’s monopole theory a topological theory as well? Probably the first one in the context of QFT.

    3. MathPhys says:


      Yes, I believe that you are right again. Witten’s work is based on Balachandran, Nair, Rajeev and Stern.

    4. abbyyorker says:

      Does anyone know at what energy unitarity kicks in to demand a Higgs boson? Or perturbative effects on other processes?

    5. IM says:

      1. Polyakov has another contribution to CFT : He was the first to say that critical
      phenomena have not only scale invariance, but also conformal invariance.
      2. I think that the Dotsenko paper MathPhys refers to is
      Critical behaviour and associated conformal algebra of the Z3 Potts model:
      Nuclear Physics B, Volume 235, 1984, Pages 54-74.
      (This is the earliest paper by
      Dotsenko or Fateev in the collection edited by Itzykson, Saleur and Zuber).
      Yes, the Introduction of this paper clearly acknowledges that the new development
      in 2D CFT was initiated by BPZ.

    6. Andrew says:

      Dear Peter,
      Love your blog and hope to get around to reading your book in full one of these years.
      I was wondering,since you’re infinitely better qualified to judge this then I am-have you heard of this and if so, what do you think?

      Personally,I think it’s Bell’s incompleteness theorem all over again-a lot of wild speculation that ultimately goes nowhere in terms of a real challenge to general relativity’s ontology.

      Andrew L .

    7. Charles says:

      When I first read this I had to double check that it was not written by Frank Close at Oxford. He is in the process of writing a book which will dive deeper into this topic and has been probing many theorists who were around Imperial College London and the “Higgs” phenomenon in the 1960’s. On a further review I noticed Dombey has connected with Dr. Close as indicated by the paper’s notes.

      I am grateful to Frank Close for early sight [38] of some material from his book [39] which presents an independent summary of Salam’s role in the 1979 Nobel prize: in particular the memos from Salam to Matthews [33] in which Salam writes his own nomination letter.

      I (and many others, such as a bloggers here) put Close, Dombey, and John Ellis in similar light…on the peripheral from the front line of theoretical physics with clearly some sort of axe to grind or motive behind their positions or fronts.

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