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Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 October 6, 2015

Posted by apetrov in Uncategorized.
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So, the Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 has been announced. To much surprise of many (including the author), it was awarded jointly to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass.” Well deserved Nobel Prize for a fantastic discovery.

What is this Nobel prize all about? Some years ago (circa 1997) there were a couple of “deficit” problems in physics. First, it appeared that the detected number of (electron) neutrinos coming form the Sun was measured to be less than expected. This could be explained in a number of ways. First, neutrino could oscillate — that is, neutrinos produced as electron neutrinos in nuclear reactions in the Sun could turn into muon or tau neutrinos and thus not be detected by existing experiments, which were sensitive to electron neutrinos. This was the most exciting possibility that ultimately turned out to be correct! But it was by far not the only one! For example, one could say that the Standard Solar Model (SSM) predicted the fluxes wrong — after all, the flux of solar neutrinos is proportional to core temperature to a very high power (~T25 for 8B neutrinos, for example). So it is reasonable to say that neutrino flux is not so well known because the temperature is not well measured (this might be disputed by solar physicists). Or something more exotic could happen — like the fact that neutrinos could have large magnetic moment and thus change its helicity while propagating in the Sun to turn into a right-handed neutrino that is sterile.

The solution to this is rather ingenious — measure neutrino flux in two ways — sensitive to neutrino flavor (using “charged current (CC) interactions”) and insensitive to neutrino flavor (using “neutral current (NC) interactions”)! Choosing heavy water — which contains deuterium — is then ideal for this detection. This is exactly what SNO collaboration, led by A. McDonald did

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 2.51.27 PM

As it turned out, the NC flux was exactly what SSM predicted, while the CC flux was smaller. Hence the conclusion that electron neutrinos would oscillate into other types of neutrinos!

Another “deficit problem” was associated with the ratio of “atmospheric” muon and electron neutrinos. Cosmic rays hit Earth’s atmosphere and create pions that subsequently decay into muons and muon neutrinos. Muons would also eventually decay, mainly into an electron, muon (anti)neutrino and an electron neutrino, as

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 2.57.37 PM

As can be seen from the above figure, one would expect to have 2 muon-flavored neutrinos per one electron-flavored one.

This is not what Super K experiment (T. Kajita) saw — the ratio really changed with angle — that is, the ratio of neutrino fluxes from above would differ substantially from the ratio from below (this would describe neutrinos that went through the Earth and then got into the detector). The solution was again neutrino oscillations – this time, muon neutrinos oscillated into the tau ones.

The presence of neutrino oscillations imply that they have (tiny) masses — something that is not predicted by minimal Standard Model. So one can say that this is the first indication of physics beyond the Standard Model. And this is very exciting.

I think it is interesting to note that this Nobel prize might help the situation with funding of US particle physics research (if anything can help…). It shows that physics has not ended with the discovery of the Higgs boson — and Fermilab might be on the right track to uncover other secrets of the Universe.

Nobel week 2015 October 5, 2015

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So, once again, the Nobel week is upon us. And one of the topics of conversations for the “water cooler chat” in physics departments around the world is speculations on who (besides the infamous Hungarian “physicist” — sorry for the insider joke, I can elaborate on that if asked) would get the Nobel Prize in physics this year. What is your prediction?

With invention of various metrics for “measuring scientific performance” one can make educated guesses — and even put predictions on the industrial footage — see Thomson Reuters predictions based on a number of citations (they did get the Englert-Higgs prize right, but are almost always off). Or even try your luck with on-line betting (sorry, no link here — I don’t encourage this). So there is a variety of ways to make you interested.

My predictions for 2015: Vera Rubin for Dark Matter or Deborah Jin for fermionic condensates. But you must remember that my record is no better than that of Thomson Reuters.

And the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics goes to… October 8, 2013

Posted by apetrov in Particle Physics, Physics, Science, Uncategorized.
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Today the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to François Englert (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) and Peter W. Higgs (University of Edinburgh, UK). The official citation is “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.” What did they do almost 50 years ago that warranted their Nobel Prize today? Let’s see (for the simple analogy see my previous post from yesterday).

The overriding principle of building a theory of elementary particle interactions is symmetry. A theory must be invariant under a set of space-time symmetries (such as rotations, boosts), as well as under a set of “internal” symmetries, the ones that are specified by the model builder. This set of symmetries restrict how particles interact and also puts constraints on the properties of those particles. In particular, the symmetries of the Standard Model of particle physics require that W and Z bosons (particles that mediate weak interactions) must be massless. Since we know they must be massive, a new mechanism that generates those masses (i.e. breaks the symmetry) must be put in place. Note that a theory with massive W’s and Z that are “put in theory by hand” is not consistent (renormalizable).

The appropriate mechanism was known in the beginning of the 1960’s. It goes under the name of spontaneous symmetry breaking. In one variant it involves a spin-zero field whose self-interactions are governed by a “Mexican hat”-shaped potential

MexicanHatIt is postulated that the theory ends up in vacuum state that “breaks” the original symmetries of the model (like the valley in the picture above). One problem with this idea was that a theorem by G. Goldstone required a presence of a massless spin-zero particle, which was not experimentally observed. It was Robert Brout, François Englert, Peter Higgs, and somewhat later (but independently), by Gerry Guralnik, C. R. Hagen, Tom Kibble who showed a loophole in a version of Goldstone theorem when it is applied to relativistic gauge theories. In the proposed mechanism massless spin-zero particle does not show up, but gets “eaten” by the massless vector bosons giving them a mass. Precisely as needed for the electroweak bosons W and Z to get their masses!  A massive particle, the Higgs boson, is a consequence of this (BEH or Englert-Brout-Higgs-Guralnik-Hagen-Kibble) mechanism and represents excitation of the Higgs field about its new vacuum state.

It took about 50 years to experimentally confirm the idea by finding the Higgs boson! Tracking the historic timeline, the first paper by Englert and Brout, was sent to Physical Review Letter on 26 June 1964 and published in the issue dated 31 August 1964. Higgs’ paper, received by Physical Review Letters on 31 August 1964 (on the same day Englert and Brout’s paper was published)  and published in the issue dated 19 October 1964. What is interesting is that the original version of the paper by Higgs, submitted to the journal Physics Letters, was rejected (on the grounds that it did not warrant rapid publication). Higgs revised the paper and resubmitted it to Physical Review Letters, where it was published after another revision in which he actually pointed out the possibility of the spin-zero particle — the one that now carries his name. CERN’s announcement of Higgs boson discovery came 4 July 2012.

Is this the last Nobel Prize for particle physics? I think not. There are still many unanswered questions — and the answers would warrant Nobel Prizes. Theory of strong interactions (which ARE responsible for masses of all luminous matter in the Universe) is not yet solved analytically, the nature of dark matter is not known, the picture of how the Universe came to have baryon asymmetry is not cleared. Is there new physics beyond what we already know? And if yes, what is it? These are very interesting questions that need answers.

2011 Physics Nobel Prize and related matters October 4, 2011

Posted by apetrov in Uncategorized.

4 October 2011 is a day to remember. And I’m not talking about unveiling of the new iPhone, although it is also quite a remarkable event. Today, a 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. As expected, in its annual failure, Thompson Reuters got it wrong in predicting 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics (to give them credit, they do put up the names of the right people, but always in the wrong year; this year they were predicting people from quantum entaglement). Anyways, this year’s Nobel Prize is totally deserving. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011 was awarded jointly to Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae.

This Nobel Prize is for the 1998 analysis of data from two collaborations, Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP), headed by Perlmutter, and High-z Supernova Search Team, headed by Schmidt and Reiss. The analyses centered on the the so-called Ia-type supernovae that have consistent peak brightness, which makes them “standard candles” of the Universe. This is an important property, which allows unambiguous measurement of distances (via the Hubble relation between the distance and the redshift) to the galaxy hosts of those supernovae. Using this data, they concluded that the Universe is going through the stage of accelerated expansion! This is a very interesting fact, especially taking into account the fact that the gravitational interaction is attractive!

This led to reevaluation of what we know about the Universe. It is widely accepted now that Dark Energy (i.e. something that permeates space and tends to increase the rate of expansion of the universe) accounts for about 74% of the total mass of the universe! Recalling that Dark Matter is responsible for about 22% of total mass gives us a fact that we really know almost next to nothing about the place we live in…

What is Dark Energy? This is a very good question. The simplest possibility is that it is the old good cosmological constant introduced by Einstein in the beginning of the last century. This leads to a particularly simple model of the Universe called Lambda-CDM model. Whether or not it is true remains to be seen. At any rate, Dark Energy/Dark Matter are currently one of the most exciting avenues for research in astrophysics (which is, of course, my subjective opinion!).


Meanwhile, the annual 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on September 29, 2011. Among the most remarkable are

“PHYSICS PRIZE: Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne and Bruno Ragaru (of FRANCE), and Herman Kingma (of THE NETHERLANDS), for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don’t.”  As expected, for a work of this magnitude, the prize-winning research was published in the widely-read physics journal Acta Oto-laryngologica.

“MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of KOREA (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of UGANDA (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.” This prize is quite timely, as the world once again is predicted to end 21 December 2012, although, frankly, they could have waited one year for this one.

Once again, the biology prize went for sexuality-related research. This time, among certain type of beetles and certain types of beer bottles (which should make a nice commercial of the type “Fosters is Australian for beer” (C)):

“BIOLOGY PRIZE: Darryl Gwynne (of CANADA and AUSTRALIA and the UK and the USA) and David Rentz (of AUSTRALIA and the USA) for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle.”

And my personal favorite is this year’s literature prize:

“LITERATURE PRIZE: John Perry of Stanford University, USA, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important.”

I would like to remind my readers that so far, there is only one “Grand Slam winner” — a person who got both Ig Nobel and a Nobel prizes: last year’s recipient of the Physics Nobel Prize Andre Geim.

2010 Physics Nobel Prize October 5, 2010

Posted by apetrov in Uncategorized.

“That science should be fun, and you don’t always need to do expensive multi-million dollar experiments to be on the cutting edge of research.”

–Konstantin Novoselov, 2010 Nobel Prize winner

As expected, in its annual failure, Thompson Reuters got it wrong in predicting 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. This year I predicted the same people, so… Anyways, this year’s Nobel Prize is totally deserving. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2010 was awarded jointly to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov “for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene.”

So while I’m sitting at NSF, please enjoy reading a Wikipedia article about graphene. Also look here. This Nobel shows that great research can also been done in a “table-top” experiment.

P.S. It is interesting to note that Andrei Geim became the first Grand Slam winner, winning both Ig Nobel and Nobel prizes in physics. The Ig Nobel prize was given to him and to Sir Michael Berry for using magnets to levitate a frog.

2010 Nobel week (and 2010 Ig Nobel) October 1, 2010

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Once again, the Nobel week is upon us! The Nobel Prize in physics will be awarded on Tue, Oct 5. I’ll be in the “smoke-filled room” at the NSF paneling about some grants, so if they call… nah… At any rate, my yearly report of the research that led to that Noble prize will be delayed by a day.

As always, there is a set of predictions that are compiled by Thompson Reuters — yes, that company that has been wrong every time it tries to do predictions. Anyways, this year Johns Hopkins people have a field day — at least as far as predictions are concerned (I support that predictions — as a person who spent three years at JHU 🙂 )…

And here they are (taken from here):

  • Charles L. Bennett
    Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD USA
    Why: for discoveries deriving from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), including the age of the universe, its topography, and its composition
  • Thomas W. Ebbesen
    Professor, University of Strasbourg, and Director, ISIS (Institute of Science and Supramolecular Engineering), Strasbourg, France
    Why: for observation and explanation of the transmission of light through subwavelength holes, which ignited the field of surface plasmon photonics
  • Lyman A. Page
    Henry DeWolf Smyth Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ USA
    Why: for discoveries deriving from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), including the age of the universe, its topography, and its composition
  • Saul Perlmutter
    Professor, Department of Physics, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA USA, and Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA USA
    Why: for discoveries of the accelerating rate of the expansion of the universe, and its implications for the existence of dark energy
  • Adam G. Riess
    Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD USA, and Senior Member, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD USA
    Why: for discoveries of the accelerating rate of the expansion of the universe, and its implications for the existence of dark energy
  • Brian P. Schmidt
    Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University, Weston Creek, Australia
    Why: for discoveries of the accelerating rate of the expansion of the universe, and its implications for the existence of dark energy
  • David N. Spergel
    Charles Young Professor on the Class of 1897 Foundation and Chair, Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ USA
    Why: for discoveries deriving from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), including the age of the universe, its topography, and its composition

I’ll stick to my last year’s prediction (Perlmuter/Reiss). Will see if anyone gets it right this time…

P.S. Ig Nobel prizes were awarded yesterday. Here are some cool ones:

  • PHYSICS PRIZE: Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand, for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.

REFERENCE: “Preventing Winter Falls: A Randomised Controlled Trial of a Novel Intervention,” Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest, New Zealand Medical Journal. vol. 122, no, 1298, July 3, 2009, pp. 31-8.

  • ECONOMICS PRIZE: The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.
  • MANAGEMENT PRIZE: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy, for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.
    REFERENCE: “The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study,” Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo, Physica A, vol. 389, no. 3, February 2010, pp. 467-72.
  • PEACE PRIZE: Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK, for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.
    REFERENCE: “Swearing as a Response to Pain,” Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston, Neuroreport, vol. 20 , no. 12, 2009, pp. 1056-60.

And there is this one… not sure what to make out of this one:

  • BIOLOGY PRIZE: Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK, for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats.

REFERENCE: “Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time,” Min Tan, Gareth Jones, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, Shuyi Zhang and Libiao Zhang, PLoS ONE, vol. 4, no. 10, e7595.

Have fun, everyone!

2009 Nobel Prize in Physics October 6, 2009

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Physics, Science.
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The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Charles K. Kao of Standard Telecommunication Laboratories Harlow (UK) “for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication” and to Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith of Bell Labs “for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor”. For more info see the announcement.

Another very applied Noble Prize – this time in optics. The first half is given for a low-loss optical fiber cables (he suggested fused silica as a material for fiber cables) — it is interesting that Nobel committee states that “An interesting example of the use of fiber-optic communication in science is the advanced fiber optics network developed at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva that will transfer large amounts of information obtained by the particle detectors to computer centers all over the world.” I guess it is one way to connect fundamental physics with applied. Or maybe underline the importance of the very applied prize.

The second half of the prize is given for a device that is a heart of your digital camera (the charged-coupled device or CCD).  The idea is simple — a CCD is a device that can record a picture by accumulating light-induced charges over its semiconductor surface, which can be read-off at the edge of the light sensitive area. Boyle and Smith invented those n 1970. Besides everyday use in small cameras, CCD’s are used, for instance, in the Hubble Space Telescope’s cameras to make great scientific discoveries.

Maybe next year the Nobel Committee can consider invention of cars and buses that take great scientists to work to make their discoveries or jet engines that are used in the airplanes that take them to the conferences where those results are discussed. Or maybe some ground-breaking technology in oil extraction that is used to fuel those engines that take those great scientists to work on their “fundamental projects.” Those inventions are definitely worthy of Nobel Prize in Physics. Stay tuned!

2009 Nobel week (which follows 2009 Ig Nobel) October 6, 2009

Posted by apetrov in Physics, Science.
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Tomorrow (Oct 6) the 2009 Nobel prize in physics will be announced. Before that happens, I want to put my 2 cents in predicting it. Don’t worry, it never works for those kind of things, I should really leave my predictions to physics. But in case it works:

* My bet (drum roll…): Adam Reiss, Saul Perlmutter and Robert Kischner for discovery of accelerating Universe.

Now, apparently that totally contradicts predictions of Thompson Scientific, who claim the following:


Who do you think will win the Nobel Prize in Physics?

Yakir Aharonov and
Sir Michael V. Berry – 24%
Juan Ignacio Cirac and
Peter Zoller – 27%
Andre K. Geim and
Kostya Novoselov – 14%
Sumio Iijima – 14%
Other – 20%


But don’t worry, they never get it right either. Although I like the graphene idea for a Nobel Prize (Geim and Novoselov)…

P.S. The 2009 Ig Nobel prize in physics was given to Liza Shapiro, Kathleen Whitcome and Daniel Lieberman on why pregnant women don’t tip over. Actually, that paper was published in the journal Nature. Serious research (this is not a joke).

2008 Nobel Prize in physics… October 7, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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… was given today to Yoichiro Nambu of the University of Chicago “for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics” and to Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa “for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature.” A Nobel Prize in particle physics.

Nambu is well-known for his work on the origins of spontaneous breaking of symmetries in quantum field theories (in particular related to strong interactions, where he addressed spontaneous breaking of chiral symmetry – which nowdays is a base of the standard language for description of low-energy pion interactions) and has many things associated with his name (Nambu-Goldstone bosons, Nambu-Jona-Lasinio model, Han-Nambu quarks (which happen to have incorrect color charge assignment), etc.).

Kobayashi and Maskawa are given the prize essentially for the CKM (Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa) matrix. CKM matrix is a generalization of the Cabibbo’s idea that quarks actually mix – he used it to explain strange results in the physics of weak decays of strange quark, where properties of weak transitions of strange quark from non-leptonic hyperon decay rates differ from the ones in semileptonic kaon decays. Since, in particle phsyics, up-, down-, and strange-quarks belong to the first two generations of quarks, this mixing is described by a two-by-two matrix. Anyhow, Kobayashi and Maskawa generalized this idea to the case of three generations (3×3 matrix). It so happens that this “generalization” predicts a new phenomenon in weak decays of elementary particles: CP-violation orginating from the CKM matrix! In other words, it describes a difference between matter and anti-matter interactions in the Standard Model, which is needed for generating baryon asymmetry of the Universe (Ok, this now sounds like my “Introduction to particle physics” lecture for beginning graduate students)… Unfortunately, there is “not enough CP-violation” in the CKM matrix to claim explanation of the baryon asymmetry of the Universe from the Standard Model, BUT: this source of CP-violation was experimentally confirmed! And now studies of the CKM matrix serve as a base for indirect studies of New Physics in low-energy transitions — which, if discovered, will be used as additional information needed to classify possible New Physics possibly observed at the LHC, once they fix it… And that’s why Nobel Prize was given to Kobayashi and Maskawa.

Still, I can’t believe they didn’t give it to Cabibbo as well..

P.S. There is an intersting local story that was told to me once I got to WSU. Nambu is also considered one of the fathers of string theory (look for Nambu-Goto action). So the story is that in the 60s there was a quark-model conference at WSU hosted by Suraj Gupta, during which Nambu came up with his idea to describe hadrons in terms of strings. How about that?

Another Ig Nobel year… October 6, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Funny, Near Physics, Physics, Science.
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The 2008 Ig Nobel prizes have been awarded. I didn’t win :-). But here are the winners (from the website of Improbable Research), this time with ciatations:


NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.
REFERENCE: “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips,” Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004,  pp. 347-63.

PEACE PRIZE. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.
REFERENCE: “The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
REFERENCE: “The Role of Armadillos in the Movement of Archaeological Materials: An Experimental Approach,” Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino, Geoarchaeology, vol. 18, no. 4, April 2003, pp. 433-60.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and  Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
REFERENCE: “A Comparison of Jump Performances of the Dog Flea, Ctenocephalides canis (Curtis, 1826) and the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouche, 1835),” M.C. Cadiergues, C. Joubert, and M. Franc, Veterinary Parasitology, vol. 92, no. 3, October 1, 2000, pp. 239-41.

MEDICINE PRIZE. Dan Ariely of Duke University (USA), Rebecca L. Waber of MIT (USA), Baba Shiv of Stanford University (USA), and Ziv Carmon of INSEAD (Singapore) for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine..
REFERENCE: “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.

COGNITIVE SCIENCE PRIZE. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
REFERENCE: “Intelligence: Maze-Solving by an Amoeboid Organism,” Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, and Ágota Tóth, Nature, vol. 407, September 2000, p. 470.

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that a professional lap dancer’s ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.
REFERENCE: “Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?” Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan, Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 28, 2007, pp. 375-81.

PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
REFERENCE: “Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String,” Dorian M. Raymer and Douglas E. Smith, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 42, October 16, 2007, pp. 16432-7.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.
REFERENCE: “Effect of ‘Coke’ on Sperm Motility,” Sharee A. Umpierre, Joseph A. Hill, and Deborah J. Anderson, New England Journal of Medicine, 1985, vol. 313, no. 21, p. 1351.
REFERENCE: “The Spermicidal Potency of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola,” C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang, Human Toxicology, vol. 6, no. 5, September 1987, pp. 395-6. [NOTE: THE JOURNAL LATER CHANGED ITS NAME. NOW CALLED “Human & experimental toxicology”]

LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations.”
REFERENCE: “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations,” David Sims, Organization Studies, vol. 26, no. 11, 2005, pp. 1625-40.


Once again, High Energy Physics is not among the prize-winners… but it did finally make it to mainstream media — apparently your scientific views on loop quantum gravity and string theory can lead to changes in your social status. Should not it always be so? 🙂