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Should Nobel Prizes be subject to review?

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  • Halfmiler2
    replied
    Some folks who did see a major problem coming were the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal. They had been warning for several years that unless Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were restrained, we'd see a mess bigger than the S&L mess a generation ago. Unfortunately, Krugman and others did not heed the warning.

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  • mcgato
    replied
    Originally posted by IanS_Liv
    To go back to the economics, ...

    How many of them are like the "Chicago boys", ideologically blinded by the concept of the "free market", something that only exists in theory, because if you can find a government that doesn't intervene in the markets or help businesses I'll buy you a Starbucks (coffee, not a franchise - I'm not exactly rich).
    ...
    Cute story on the "Chicago boys" comment, though only somewhat econ related. I'm have a math undergrad degree from U Chicago, and since I graduated they set up a financial mathematics graduate program. In late 2007, I got an announcement that there was to be an alumni math talk in midtown Manhattan given by a Connecticut hedge fund manager and UC alumnus. Usually I ignore these functions, but this talk was to happen just as the stock market was melting down. So amid 500+ drops in the Dow I went to the talk. I think that I was the only person there not in either the financial markets or academia. The speaker looked like he hadn't slept for a couple of days, and he talked about how things got to this point and where we were possibly heading. When he said something to the effect that "no one could have seen this coming," I had to choke back my instant BS reply.

    I left shortly after the talk ended, glad to be away from those people. Not people that I would like to associate with. I have long thought that most of economics is the science of telling you why something happened last week. Their forward predictions are mostly useless.

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  • Halfmiler2
    replied
    Unlike the hard sciences, the social sciences (especially economics) cannot set up a control group to which to compare results. This shortcoming inevitably leads to room for argument and emphasizing certain things while ignoring others.

    Krugman despite his nobel prize (which was awarded for a narrow aspect of economics) is no different. His article avoids mentioning in any detail the problems of the late 1970's which brought Kenesian economics into such disrepute. And it tries to divide all economists into only two camps: Kenesians and Chicago School while simply ignoring the supply-siders. And, of course, he blames the financial problems of 2008 simply on the market without casting any blame on the major role of government-created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in causing the problem.

    As the the what to do about the Nobel Prizes, I'd just as soon abolish them.

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  • catson52
    replied
    Originally posted by IanS_Liv
    To go back to the economics, I failed the economics section of my business studies course - badly - and even I could tell you that packaging up bad debts and selling them on whilst disguising their true nature is a con trick, rather than a viable economic model.

    I wonder how many economists are working in departments sponsored by banks, businesses, etc? Quite a few? How many of them are like the "Chicago boys", ideologically blinded by the concept of the "free market", something that only exists in theory, because if you can find a government that doesn't intervene in the markets or help businesses I'll buy you a Starbucks (coffee, not a franchise - I'm not exactly rich).

    Maybe we need to start viewing economists' predictions the same way we view drug-company sponsored medical trials?
    Applies not only to economics, but also in large measure to the "hard sciences" , having worked in one of those fields for ~40 years. Mostly now "market driven research". One of the last truly greats to avoid this pitfall, was Michael Faraday. Two brief stories. (1) When the British PM and his cohorts came to see his experiments on electromagnetism, the Chancellor of the Exchequer commented that he did not see the point of it all, or applications. Faraday is said to have smilingly replied something to the extent that there would be tax money in it for the government some day. (2) During the Crimean War (?) Faraday was approached to extend his work on liquefying (etc) chlorine, possibly for use as a poison gas in warfare. He flatly refused.

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  • catson52
    replied
    Originally posted by JRM
    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).
    Not sure what you mean by "theory". Newton's Law of Gravitation is still a "theory", although we have 350 years or so of tests, showing it is basically correct. And the same applies to Archimedes' formulation on floatation, 2200 years old now. Note that one of the cornerstones of physical chemistry, the ideas of Avogadro, is still called "Hypothesis" and not "Theory".

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  • IanS_Liv
    replied
    To go back to the economics, I failed the economics section of my business studies course - badly - and even I could tell you that packaging up bad debts and selling them on whilst disguising their true nature is a con trick, rather than a viable economic model.

    I wonder how many economists are working in departments sponsored by banks, businesses, etc? Quite a few? How many of them are like the "Chicago boys", ideologically blinded by the concept of the "free market", something that only exists in theory, because if you can find a government that doesn't intervene in the markets or help businesses I'll buy you a Starbucks (coffee, not a franchise - I'm not exactly rich).

    Maybe we need to start viewing economists' predictions the same way we view drug-company sponsored medical trials?

    Leave a comment:


  • JRM
    replied
    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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  • Daisy
    replied
    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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  • bambam1729
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • JRM
    replied
    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).

    Leave a comment:


  • Marlow
    replied
    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'. )

    Leave a comment:


  • catson52
    replied
    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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  • cullman
    replied
    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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  • catson52
    replied
    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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  • bambam1729
    replied
    Yasar Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize, as I recall. If we're going to start recalling Nobels ...

    Leave a comment:

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