Some Comments on this Year’s Nobel Prizes


The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for fibre optics, for work done about fifty years ago. These prizes are well deserved, but compared with the British Civil List they are out dated and do not reflect major recent advances such as ECE theory. A British Civil List appointment is an open, democratic process, one must be nominated by the relevant Academy (in my case the Royal Society supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry), then also by the Prime Minister. Finally the candidacy must be reviewed by the Head of State (Queen Elizabeth) and voted in by Parliament in an Act. The appointment to Pensioner is rare, and is also a national high honour commensurate with Order of Merit (O.M.). On the other hand the Nobel Prize process is undemocratic, it relies on nominations by nominees chosen by the Royal Swedish Academy (in the case of physics). The great majority of physicists therefore do not have a say in the process at all. The result is often a compromise. The latest Nobel Laureates are well on in years, and certainly deserve a prize, but what about the contemporary generation? The Nobel Peace Prize is incomprehensible, a string of such prizes have been awarded to presidents or vice presidents of the most powerful country at present, the U.S. In what way have these fellow citizens specifically worked for peace? The literature prize is such a lottery that figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre have rejected a prize in the past. Finally, the money accompanying the Civil List appointment is nominal only, so it is a true award on merit. The Nobel Prize is accompanied by a lot of money and publicity, while the Civil List appointment is awarded quietly with proper dignity.


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