Nobel Prize in Physics again goes to US (with touch of Australia) for accelerating expansion Universe

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to (1st half) Saul Perlmutter of Berkeley and (2nd half) to Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt for their discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae – which ended the believe implosions would follow after Big Bang-like cosmic explosions. What’s more dramatic, from the accelerating expansion measurements we learn everything will end up in nothingness, as even atoms will dissolve when space consumes all gravity. Hurrah!*

The Science Olympics

Apart from another nice occasion to cheer at an always well-deserved winner and an annual public attention for science boost, we are also happy to add some extra colour to the below map of the world of ultimate achievers in Physics.

Because we should not forget that what the Olympics are to sports fanatics, the Nobel Prizes are to the nerds: an honourable chance to carry your country’s flag to the battlefield.

Although all three 2011 winners are born in the US, Mr Schmidt works for the Australian National University. [Riess has a position at Johns Hopkins University.]

Nobel Prize Physics infographic
Today’s Nobel Prize in Physics is the 104th awarded Physics prize since 1901. That is because in the years 1916, 1931, 1934, 1940, 1941, and 1942 no Physics prizes were awarded. The above map shows from which countries scientists were awarded the Physics Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2009 – so without 2010 and 2011. The US has scored best in absolute numbers, but per capita the German and British contributions are remarkable as well. Also noteworthy is the fact that winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics have thus far only come from 3 of the 6 continents – although we say this year Australia deserves a touch of blue as well. Infographic through Digital Inspiration.

2010 Nobel Prize in Physics

Last year the Nobel Prize in Physics went to Andre Geim, for his discovery of graphene.

His contribution to the Nobel Prize country match was very confusing indeed. From a German family with Jewish heritage, raised and educated in Russia, with a Dutch passport and spending most of his days in Manchester, Geim’s Physics prize was particularly hard to claim for any country.

So for the PR concerns of a nation it’s not just scientific talent that counts, but also holding onto scientists which seek to have uncomplicated and loyal careers. Having to split this year’s prize between three scientists is of course also a bit of a bummer for anyone wanting to claim full victory.

[*) Let’s be fair. The accelerating expansion of the Universe findings were probably the biggest single piece of science news of the last decade. Because no one outside hardcore Physics knows how to handle its consequences – or even remotely understand what and why – the research has received far too little media attention.]

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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