Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 predictions

28 September 2011 - The crystal ball

October 5 is drawing near with another edition of NPIC day. See this blog's 2008, 2009 and 2010 coverage here. The contestants are basically the same as last year. In terms of clusters they are: Jacqueline Barton Bernd Giese & Gary Schuster (DNA electron transfer), Charles Lieber/George M. Whitesides/James Fraser Stoddart (nanotech advance) and Martin Karplus/Ad Bax (biomolecular structure elucidation).

Thomson's shortlist for 2011 (here) now includes Fritz Vögtle, Donald Tomalia and Jean Fréchet for their work on dendrimers which may problematic as there are other pioneers in this field alive and well. One other name in this list Allen J. Bard is equally problematic because as far as the Wikipedia community is concerned his contribution to science - scanning electrochemical microscopy - is irrelevant. Sure, there is a biopage but no page on this type of microscopy or even a single Bard citation on any page.

If it is up to Chembark the prize belongs to Richard Zare and W. E. Moerner for their work on lasers. Moerner gets a mention on the Single-molecule experiment page. Zare (again in the Wikipedia universe) is notable only for his involvement in the controversial Allan Hills 84001 life-from-Mars claim. Does he still stand by that article?

Predictions aside, it will be equally interesting to see how the media will eventually handle the winning science. Science journalists must occasionally be lost for words. How to sell the prize to the general public! In 2005 when the prize was in the field of olefin metathesis it was described as an innovative way to reduce chemical waste by the leading TV news bulletin in the Netherlands which may be true but is beside the point. Last year when the prize was all about coupling reactions the same bulletin skipped to item all together.

This blog by the way as last year is supporting Whitesides. For a virtual tour of his lab see the latest episode of Meanwhile in the Whitesides lab