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  • Should Nobel Prizes be subject to review?

    In last weekend’s New York Times magazine, Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, wrote a long op-ed piece titled: How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?
    Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy. During the golden years, financial economists came to believe that markets were inherently stable — indeed, that stocks and other assets were always priced just right. There was nothing in the prevailing models suggesting the possibility of the kind of collapse that happened last year. Meanwhile, macroeconomists were divided in their views. But the main division was between those who insisted that free-market economies never go astray and those who believed that economies may stray now and then but that any major deviations from the path of prosperity could and would be corrected by the all-powerful Fed. Neither side was prepared to cope with an economy that went off the rails despite the Fed’s best efforts.
    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magaz ... -t.html?em

    The article is quite interesting, but the main point that I took away from it seems to be that every Nobel Prizewinner in Economics for the last 20 years or so has been talking out their @$$ in a really major way, and yet most all of them still have prestigious, responsible and high-paying jobs. Fer cryin out loud! Doesn’t anybody think this kind’a taints the Nobel?!? Were there any second-placers who weren't just BS-ing with fancy terminology and equations?

  • #2
    I was under the impression it is already very subjective, so a review would be pointless, unless some of the 'facts (such as they are) were wrong in deliberations. The whole thing is 'political' from the get-go anyway, so basically . . . who cares.

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    • #3
      Of course if they were to start down that road the first prize to be reconsidered wouldn't be an economics prize, but Henry Kissinger's "peace" prize.

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      • #4
        I majored in Economics in college and quickly understood that when it came to "big picture' or macroeconomics, I did not understand a thing. But I also quickly did understand that all the supposed macroeconomic experts did not really know anything either.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by dukehjsteve
          all the supposed macroeconomic experts did not really know anything either.
          I think that applies to most of the categories. :twisted:

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          • #6
            How about all of the very well paid people (generally much better paid than economists) who've been makiing millions of dollars a year managing other people's money?

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            • #7
              Yasar Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize, as I recall. If we're going to start recalling Nobels ...

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              • #8
                Originally posted by bambam1729
                Yasar Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize, as I recall. If we're going to start recalling Nobels ...
                Many more that could (should) be subject to review. The Peace Prize would probably win out for bad ("wrong") awards, but Economics and Literature (more subjective) would follow closely. In the Science fields, the method was to delay awards for many years after the "work" was done, to try and make sure that awardees work/ideas held up. Einstein had to wait more than a decade after his Special Theory publication; in fact, his citation talked about Brownian Motion and The Photoelectric Effect and not really about Relativity.

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                • #9
                  Science has had it's share of questionable recipients.
                  Link - No Nobel for You: Top 10 Nobel Snubs: Scientific American Slideshows

                  cman

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cullman
                    Science has had it's share of questionable recipients.
                    Link - No Nobel for You: Top 10 Nobel Snubs: Scientific American Slideshows

                    cman
                    Not nearly as many as in Peace and Literature. I know little about Eco so will refrain from commenting on that one. One can not only question those who won awards, but perhaps even more, those who deserved an award and for whatever reason (usually politics), got the ice cold shoulder.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by catson52
                      Originally posted by cullman
                      Science has had it's share of questionable recipients.
                      Not nearly as many as in Peace and Literature.
                      Oh, literature has PLENTY. Niche authors with little audience and not much to say. But they each had their own little coterie of fanatics, so they win the prize. (And no, I am NOT going to list examples, because I would instantly be called a Hata by whatever group that author 'represents'. )

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by catson52
                        Einstein had to wait more than a decade after his Special Theory publication; in fact, his citation talked about Brownian Motion and The Photoelectric Effect and not really about Relativity.
                        To clarify what you said (for the benefit of others): Einstein did not win for his formulation of Special Relativity, for which he is most famous in the popular arena (E=mc^2). He won for his work on the photoelectric effect: a proven, physically-verifiable phenomenon that was reinforced by other theory and experiment at the time (the Planck law of radiation). The exact commendation from the Nobel foundation was "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect".

                        In fact, special (and general) relativity is, still today, a "theory" (even though we have ample evidence that it is likely correct). The Nobel Committee had strange requirements for fulfillment of the award. By today's standards, I have no doubt that Einstein would have won a unique award for "contributions to the understanding of gravitational physics" (cf. many of the recent recipients in the fields of particle physics).

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                        • #13
                          Of those Top 10 snubs (nice list), I knew of Lise Meitner and Rosalind Franklin, who got screwed because they were women. Never thought of Gibbs or Mendeleyev, who were born just too early.

                          In medicine, Sir John Charnley was nominated multiple times and never won. It is irksome to orthopaedic surgeons, as Charnley developed the total hip replacement in the early 1950s which has saved so many people from pain and suffering. He was knighted for his efforts but never won the Nobel.

                          The medicine/physiology prize has only been won three times by a practising doctor, all in the early 20th century. It is really now just a physiology research prize.

                          The other puzzling thing is the lack of a mathematics Nobel, but apparently Alfred Nobel has something against mathematicians because of his own problems in school. So mathematicians have the Fields Medal, which is sort of their Nobel equivalent.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by cullman
                            Science has had it's share of questionable recipients.
                            I'd say the issue is less about questionable recipients as questionable omissions.

                            Originally posted by bambam1729
                            Rosalind Franklin, who got screwed because [she was a] women.
                            Not true. She died before the prize for the structure of DNA was awarded. They do not award the prize posthumously.

                            Originally posted by bambam1729
                            The medicine/physiology prize has only been won three times by a practising doctor, all in the early 20th century. It is really now just a physiology research prize.
                            I would debate this one too. Many of the recent prizes are medically-related. And you don't always have to be a practicing doctor to have an impact in the medical field.

                            I do agree that there have been fewer prizes for the applied aspects of medicine.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bambam1729
                              Of those Top 10 snubs (nice list), I knew of Lise Meitner and Rosalind Franklin, who got screwed because they were women.
                              Meitner's omission was questionably because of her religion, and not because of her gender. Her contributions to pioneering nuclear theory -- particularly nuclear fission -- arose in the mid- to late-30s. Her collaborators, Frisch and Hahn (noted German physicists), chose to omit her from the discovery.

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