‘Losing The Nobel Prize’ Makes A Good Point, But Misses A Great One (Book Review)
“This is science. Our goal is to fully understand the Universe, one incremental step at a time. Our human failings are many, and we must not let them get the best of us. In Losing the Nobel Prize, Brian Keating exposes not only the failings of the Nobel Prize system, but also his own personal frailties. What emerges is a flawed but sympathetic read, where you’ll find yourself rooting not only for quality science to win out in the end, but for every contributor to work together in an open fashion for the benefit of human knowledge in general. We may be a long way from achieving that goal, but it’s arguable that by losing the Nobel Prize, Keating and BICEP2 has led us to an even greater victory: the recognition that there are more important things in this Universe, like scientific truths, than the fleeting glory of an earthly award.”
Imagine that you stake your life’s work on a high-risk, high-reward proposition. You think you’ve got a great new way to push the limits on our understanding of the Universe to never-before-probed frontiers. If you succeed, which is to say, if you’re first to probe that, and you find something new and novel, you’ve just made a tremendous scientific breakthrough. If you play the publicity game right, your research, its implications, and quite possibly, you, might be deemed Nobel-worthy. Only three people, maximum, can ever wind the Nobel Prize for a particular discovery, despite the fact that dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people are required to bring such an experiment to fruition. Now imagine you did that, got the spectacular result, and then had your finding overturned, as the field found your work to be sloppy, premature, and incomplete.