October 2, 2008

Dark Matter And Nanotech Collide In Race For Nobel Prize

A survey released by Thomson Reuters Corp on Wednesday has named the most likely scientists to receive this year's prestigious Nobel Prize.

Secrecy shrouds the Nobel committee's deliberations over the yearly prizes and the winners themselves usually do not even know until shortly before the announcement.

David Pendlebury of Research Services at Thomson Reuters said the amount of citations which projects use can be an important factor.

"You get a very strong signal of what the scientific community itself feels is an important work," Pendlebury said.

Since 2002, Pendlebury's analyses have picked 12 Nobel winners.

In chemistry this year, Pendlebury is eyeing Charles Lieber of Harvard University for his work on nanowires and nanomaterials as well as Roger Tsien at the University of California San Diego, La Jolla, who figured out how to use the same chemical that makes jellyfish glow green to track biological reactions in the lab.

For physics, Pendlebury speculates winners will be Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov from the University of Manchester, who worked on graphene, the thinnest material ever discovered, and Vera Rubin at the Carnegie Institution in Washington helping prove the existence of mysterious dark matter.

For economics, the analysis points to Lars Hansen of the University of Chicago, Thomas Sargent at New York University and Princeton University's Christopher Sims for helping translate arcane economic theory to real-world markets in predicting risky securities, for instance -- a field called econometrics.

"After identifying the highly cited authors we look at their areas of research to see if they were the pioneers to verify that our citations counts are good signals," Pendlebury said.

The first Nobel announcements this year are due on October 6. Dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes, first handed out in 1901, in his will.


Image Caption: This Hubble image shows a ring of dark matter located in distant galaxy cluster. Image credit: NASA, ESA, M. J. Jee and H. Ford et al. (Johns Hopkins Univ.)