Most fields of science have become increasingly collaborative over the last century, sometimes forcing the Nobel Prizes to unduly truncate the list of recipients, or neglect major discoveries involving more than three discoverers. In January we pointed out a possible escape from this predicament: choose three official laureates at random from a larger list, then publish the entire list, along with the fact that the official winners had been chosen randomly from it. The money of course would go to the three official winners, but public awareness that they were no more worthy than the others might induce them to share it. A further refinement would be to use (and perhaps publish) weighted probabilities, allowing credit to be allocated unequally. If the Nobel Foundation’s lawyers could successfully argue that such randomization was consistent with Nobel’s will, the Prizes would better reflect the collaborative nature of modern science, at the same time lessening unproductive competition among scientists to make it into the top three.
The Quantum Cardinals