The Nobel Prizes: What you should know ahead of time
By: Ben P. Stein, Director, Inside Science
It’s actually quite remarkable how well the Nobel committees keep the prizes and recipients secret until the announcements. (Update: In the earlier version of this blog, I wrote we were unaware of any leaks of prize information prior to the official announcements. But I have now found that Time had reported one for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize shortly before it was announced. And bookmakers reported an abrupt increase in the odds for poet Tomas Tranströmer to win shortly before he was named the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature, according to Sweden’s The Local newspaper; Swedish authorities investigated the matter and eventually came to no conclusions, according to the Wall Street Journal. Nonetheless, the Nobel committees’ overall track record seems excellent for keeping the prize information under wraps.)
The Nobel committees contact the often bleary-eyed recipients in the very early morning before announcing the prizes. Last year’s physics announcement was delayed because of the committee’s difficulty in reaching recipient Peter Higgs. He was traveling and doesn’t own a cellphone. For the 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, one of the recipients, Ralph Steinman, died the Friday before the prize was announced, unbeknownst to the Nobel committee. Nobel Prizes can only be given to living individuals, based on the conditions set forth by the Nobel Foundation. But in my opinion, the Nobel committee did the right thing in 2011 and kept Steinman as the recipient even though he was deceased.
Read more at the Inside Science blog.