Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Nuclear nobel prize

It's the beginning of the first week of semester here on campus, which makes life hectic, but also reminds me that it's the time of year when the Nobel prizes are announced.  I idly thought, "oh, I wonder if it will go to a nuclear physicist," before pessimistically recalling that nuclear physics is a dead field.  Then, with second thoughts about my cynicism, I tried to think of any likely candidates.

I think the nuclear physics front–runner has to be from the various teams that have led the discovery of the superheavy elements, particularly those leading to the recently–authorised namings up to element 118.  That would put Yuri Oganessian, from Dubna, Russia, in the forefront, with members of the GSI, Germany, team being in serious contention, too.  In particular Sigurd Hofmann, Gottfried Münzenberg, and Peter Armbruster.  Of course, the teams included many others, but the Nobel prize works by placing all the glory on a few (up to three).

Still, I think it's unlikely to go to nuclear physics, but you never know.  I asked my colleague last night if she had any ideas who might be in the running.  She didn't except to say "I bet it'll be men,"  which is a good point, so at least my suggestion above has already cleared the biggest hurdle to winning the prize.

Here's a selfie I took with Prof Oganessian earlier this year.

edit:  Making the post only a few hours before the announcement is not necessarily a great idea.  The prize has gone to  Dr Ashkin, Mourou and Strickland for work on high–intensity lasers.  As my colleague has pointed out, the work is relevant for nuclear physics research.  And more than that, one of the winners, Dr Strickland, is the first woman to win the prize since Marie Göppert-Mayer, who won the prize (for nuclear physics) in 1963.

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