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What topic will win this year’s Nobel?

By Hamish Johnston

hands smll.jpg

It’s that time of year again…predictions are being bandied about coffee/tea rooms worldwide and worthy physicists are dusting off their ties and tails in anticipation of a trip to Stockholm to meet Carl XVI.

The 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics will be announced next Tuesday so we thought we would test the waters with a Facebook poll. Instead of asking who will win the prize, we’re more interested in the field that the winners will be from.

The options are:

Quantum information
Metamaterials and invisibility
Neutrino oscillations
Aharonov–Bohm effect and Berry’s phase

Have your say here.

What do I think? Well, this year I’m going for the Aharonov–Bohm effect and Berry’s phase – which means that the prize would be shared by Yakir Aharonov and Bristol’s very own Michael Berry.

Peter Rodgers (former editor of Physics World) adds Alain Aspect to Aharonov and Berry and suggests a prize for contributions to the fundamentals of quantum mechanics.

Last week’s poll focused on perhaps the most famous fictional physicist – Sheldon Cooper of TV’s Big Bang Theory. We asked you what you thought of this abrasive character as played by actor Jim Parsons.

“He’s an exaggerated version of a physicist for comic effect”, garnered the most support with about 73% of the vote. Only 5% see him as a grotesque parody of a physicist.

Interestingly, 7% of respondents answered “He’s got me down to a tee!”. This included one person who left a comment that included the following observation:

“I’m sure there are many who feel that he’s an accurate representation of some scientists, even of those most likely to be drawn to science, without believing they personally are like him.”

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