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Science IT The 2000 Beanies

Why There's No Nobel Prize In Computing 229

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the they-hate-us dept.
alphadogg writes "When Nobel Prizes are dished out each fall, the most accomplished professionals in computing, telecom and IT have usually been left out in the cold. That's because there is no Nobel Prize for these fields, and it's unlikely there will be one any time soon. According to the Nobel Foundation: 'The Nobel Prizes, as designated in the Will of Alfred Nobel, are in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. Only once has a prize been added — a Memorial Prize — The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, donated by Sweden's central bank to celebrate its tercentenary in 1968. The Nobel Foundation's Board of Directors later decided to keep the original five prizes intact and not to permit new additions.' So, if IBM, Google, Apple or some other deep-pocketed tech company wanted to make a big donation along the lines of what Sweden's central bank did in 1968, maybe it could sway the Nobel Foundation to add a prize. But it most likely wouldn't be officially called a Nobel Prize."
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Why There's No Nobel Prize In Computing

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  • Well, (Score:5, Funny)

    by Flyerman (1728812) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:22PM (#36351544) Journal

    At least I have a reason for never winning a Nobel Prize, unlike all those writers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:23PM (#36351562)

    They'd just end up giving it to somebody like Zuckerberg rather than somebody like Knuth.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:33PM (#36351742)

      They'd just end up giving it to somebody like Zuckerberg rather than somebody like Knuth.

      Why would a dead german polar bear receive a prize in computing?
      Thanks to Zuckerberg we can now exchange cute lolcats with our thousands of friends! We had no way to do this before Facebook existed.
      He deserves this prize more than anyone else (and especially a bear, you fool).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Exactly what I came here to say. If it means that some self aggrandizing marketing troll stands a chance of being the nobel prize winner for computing, I'd as soon not have a computing category.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SnarfQuest (469614)

      No, it would go to someone like Al Gore or Obama. That would make as much sense as the awards they've already given them. Maybe they will give it to an actual programmer, if they can prove that they really hate America.

      • Um, the Nobel Prizes for sciences and literature has nothing to do with the Peace Prize. The Peace Prize, your "hate America crowd", consists of Norwegian politicians and related types who are interested in promoting agendas. The other prizes are awarded by the various Swedish academies related to that prize. Sweden is not Norway... look it up on Google if you don't believe me. The Swedish academies are definitely more objective than politicians, and probably less politically motivated by the prize nomin

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Why, did Bill Gates win a Nobel prize in economics that I didn't hear about? Zuckerberg would be the same, high on the money low on the science.

  • I bet Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and all the big guys drowning in cash could create the Nobel Prize in Computing.

    Why they would (or would not) want to do it, might be a valid question.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:25PM (#36351600) Homepage Journal
    there's at least a dozen prizes already for computing related things(productive and games), and for the important things the inventors are already covered by current nobel prizes.

    and there's no nobel prize for the best designed car either, so there..
    • by jmcbain (1233044) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:45PM (#36351940)

      At the author of the article mentions, the ACM Alan M. Turing Award [acm.org] is the definitive award given out in the computer science community and is considered on par with the Nobel Prize. All the winners of the Turing Award have won the award based on work that has stood the test of time, typically on merit that was introduced 20+ years prior and still stands today as a fundamental and invaluable core contribution to the field. You will find contributions on computational theory, TCP/IP, programming language theory, HCI, cryptography, software engineer, and others.

      Note, however, that the Turing Award does not cover IT or telecom.

    • Our award is called the IPO award, and it's great. Turns out it's harder to get than I thought it would be when I first started in this field, though.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      But we don't have a Nobel Prize in mathematics either. Much of Computer Science would fall under that category.

  • by Hatta (162192)

    Advances in computing should fall under Math, but there's no prize for that either.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Except the Fields medal. And the Turing Award...
      • by Hatta (162192)

        Neither of which are Nobel Prizes.

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          I prefer the IG Nobel Prizes..

          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            I was given a book on the IG Nobel prizes. I was greatly surprised and amused when I found my former employer listed as a winner! One out of a group of those winning "for the use of imaginary numbers in accounting".

      • Exactly what I was going to say. The Turing Award [wikimedia.org] is frequently described as 'the Nobel Prize for computing', and comes with a $250,000 prize, as well as the prestige. It's been going since 1966, so it's hardly new. Looking down the list of winners, I can't see any that I don't think were worthy of the award.
      • Re:Math (Score:4, Insightful)

        by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:48PM (#36351968) Journal
        The Fields Medal is not granted to anyone who has passed their 40th birthday. So a lot of great mathematicians who have done great work after this age, or whose work was not recognized until after they were 40 will not be / were not awarded. This is ridiculous. If you are going to recognize great work, age should not play a part. It is not right. It also means that the Fields Medal is not comparable to the Nobel Prize which does not discriminate based on age.
        • really? What kind of insanity is this? Why??

          If anything, you'd think that old fogeys who create awards like this would've mandated the winner be AT LEAST 40 years old.
          • G.H. Hardy wrote: [ualberta.ca]

            I had better say something here about this question of age, since it is particularly important for mathematicians. No mathematician should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game. To take a simple illustration at a comparatively humble level, the average age of election to the Royal Society is lowest in mathematics. We can naturally find much more striking illustrations. We may consider, for example, the career of a man who was certainly one of the world's three greatest mathematicians. Newton gave up mathe- matics at fifty, and had lost his enthusiasm long before; he had recognized no doubt by the time he was forty that his greatest creative days were over. His greatest idea of all, fluxions and the law of gravitation, came to him about 1666 , when he was twenty- four—'in those days I was in the prime of my age for invention, and minded mathematics and philosophy more than at any time sine'. He made big discoveries until he was nearly forty (the 'elliptic orbit' at thirty-seven), but after that he did little but polish and perfect.
            Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty. There have been men who have done great work a good deal later; Gauss's great memoir on differential geometry was published when he was fifty (though he had had the fundamental ideas ten years before). I do not know an instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty. If a man of mature age loses interest in and abandons mathematics, the loss is not likely to be very serious either for mathematics or for himself.

            One of the ostensible purposes of such prizes is to subsidize further research. If the recipient of a Fields Medal is past his or her prime, the monies will be wasted, Hardy's observation may no longer hold, but old traditions die hard.

            • Which is why John Nash won a Nobel Prize for economics... i.e. no math Nobel, and no Field's Medal for an old man. It is why I say that Intelligence and Stupidity are NOT mutually exclusive (talking about how the Fields Medal is awarded, not John Nash). Stupidity to me is more closely related to wisdom, or how you do or do not apply your intelligence. It is why we all can do stupid things. Trust me. I know. :D
            • "I do not know an instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty."

              Fair enough, but I don't think "we can't think of any advances made by anyone under 40" is good justification for keeping an age limit. That will only hold up until someone over 40 comes along with a major advance, at which point I suspect the reasoning will become cyclical: it can't be a major advance because he's over 40.

              Or she. I'm assuming the Fields medal doesn't discriminate against gender?

      • There's also the Abel Prize [wikipedia.org]

        It's annual, like the Nobel Prize.
        The prize amount is similar to that of the Nobels.
        Like the Nobel Peace Prize, it's presented by the King of Norway.
        There's no age limit.

      • by qmaqdk (522323)

        And the Abel Prize [abelprisen.no] which is pretty much equivalent to a Nobel Prize in all but name.

    • Biology should also be a category. Awards for biologists are often shoehorned into physiology, medicine, or chemistry, but as with computing, that can't encompass the whole field. I think that Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge should have been given a Nobel for punctuated equilibrium, but evolutionary theory doesn't fit into any of those categories. Ecology and population genetics too seem like areas of biology that aren't covered.

      Also seems like quite an oversight to give an award for literature b
  • Some people have a limited definition of what constitutes "science" or "progress".

    At least we have the Turing Award [wikipedia.org].
  • by jd (1658) <imipak@noSPam.yahoo.com> on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:26PM (#36351642) Homepage Journal

    But they have the Fields Medal. Indeed, other disciplines have found ways round this problem. It is not the lack of a Nobel that is the issue, but the lack of a belief within the field that could bring about a comparable prestigious award.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Exactly there are lot of professions left out. There is no Nobel prize for Astronomy, geology, or any of the engineering fields. They have their own like the Collins trophy for Aerospace. Computer science is no more deserving than those fields.

    • The story of why there's no Nobel prize in Mathematics is much more interesting, involves a woman.
  • This way, the Nobel Prize for Technology can have as much meaning as the Nobel Peace Prize and the Time Person of the Year
    • I would say that the Time Person of the Year [delawareonline.com] is worth more than the Peace Prize, just because they're more honest: they give it to people who've had a great impact on the world, not necessarily a positive impact.

      • by 1u3hr (530656)

        I would say that the Time Person of the Year is worth more than the Peace Prize, just because they're more honest: they give it to people who've had a great impact on the world, not necessarily a positive impact.

        Except in 2001 when they omitted giving it to bin Laden, who certainly did change the world. They earlier gave it to Hitler, so it wasn't just for "nice guys". But they were gutless and gave it to Giuliani. So, not so honest.

        • by Ltap (1572175)
          Hitler in fact almost won "Person of the Century" (which was instead given to Einstein). The reason being that he "failed in his goals", which is completely avoiding the fact of how much (albeit negative) influence he had. It was more to protect Time from pressure from people (after all, giving someone an award is generally seen as a sign of positive support except, arguably, in cases in the Darwin Awards) who wouldn't understand why they have given it to Hitler. If I recall correctly, Hitler was Person of
      • by nomadic (141991)
        That's why I won it in 2009.
  • I have an idea, let's call it the Turing Award! ... seriously, though. There isn't a Nobel prize for Math, either, so it's no shock that there isn't one for computing.
  • Isn't the Nobel prize for scientists? I guess aside from the Nobel Peace and Literature Prizes. I guess I just can't imagine anything in the IT field being Nobel Prize worthy. Should my electrician or my lawyer also be miffed he's not getting a Nobel Prize?
    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      You're equating IT with computer science.

      Hypothetically, wouldn't things such as artificial intelligence be worth of a Nobel?

      • No I'm not. The article notes that professionals in telecom and IT are left out from getting a Nobel Prize. I don't think of professionals in IT as scientists. A researcher at a company that does IT and telecom maybe (Bell Labs comes to mind), but "IT professional" makes me think of Larry the sysadmin lamenting that he'll never get a Nobel Prize.
        • by npsimons (32752) *

          The article notes that professionals in telecom and IT are left out from getting a Nobel Prize. I don't think of professionals in IT as scientists. A researcher at a company that does IT and telecom maybe (Bell Labs comes to mind), but "IT professional" makes me think of Larry the sysadmin lamenting that he'll never get a Nobel Prize.

          Yeah, that perplexed me as well. IT professionals? Sysadmins? All due respect to them, but I don't think they are worthy of a Nobel prize unless they actually did something tha

          • by tnk1 (899206)

            As great as some of the discoveries that are made by Nobel Prize winners are, it irritates me that people have the attitude that engineers and other folks aren't instrumental in that positive impact. No Nobel Prize winner would have any impact on anything unless their ideas were implemented by someone else, many Nobel Prize winning scientists don't have the skillset to apply anything at all.

            Sure, I get that theoretical disciplines should have a top flight award in their field that has great prestige. What

  • There's no prize for biology either, much to the annoyance of chemists who find that often the chemistry prize is given to then instead. So much so that the most recent award for Palladium catalysed coupling reactions raised eyebrows because it was actually *chemistry* being awarded the chemistry prize!

    Of course, it all stems from the historically limited subject categories.

    • Based on reductionism, A prize in biology (and physiology or medicine) is redundant, as we already have a prize for chemistry. The chemistry prize... is also redundant, as there already exists a prize in physics...
  • ... maybe the Nobel Prize for Chemistry?

    It's only as far fetched as the government classifying contact lenses as a drug. Certainly no more far fetched than declaring by law that some drugs have no medical uses.

    But seriously, if there were Nobel Prizes for computing, a lot of luminaries before us would form a life-long backlog of folks who should be honored first. The best you can hope for is to get honored posthumously.
  • While not a separate category, there have been prizes awarded that have significantly advanced computing. Off the top of my head:
    • Jack Kilby, invention of the IC (2000)
    • Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg, discovering Giant Magnetoresistence (2007) (GMR is important for HDs)
    • William Boyle and George Smith, invention of the CCD (2009)
    • Charles Kao, work on fiber optics (2009)

    I'm sure there are others I've missed.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:46PM (#36351942)

    Just as there is the fields medal in mathematics (and the new, perhaps more appropriate Abel prize), there is the ACM A.M. Turing award for computing.

    The problem with making more nobel prizes is where do you draw the line? Why isn't there one for astronomy and astrophysics, separate from the one for physics (these guys really do complain about being lumped together alot), or organic, and inorganic chemistry. How about splitting the nobel prize in medicine into a 'procedures' and a 'biochemistry' category.

    Why not a Nobel prize in business, as separate from a Nobel prize in economics? Or different sub branches of economics.

    Hell, there are, at just the school I am at, (exactly) 50 different PhD programmes offered. Why doesn't each of those get a nobel prize? Women's studies and feminist research, history, music etc. There are people who do great work in all of those 50 programmes, well, ok, maybe not journalism or women's studies, but the other 48 anyway,

    Nobel prizes are an odd tool. They are largely awarded, in the sciences at least, well after the work is done, and in many cases awarded clearly in a sequence (so that they can award both the discoverer of something really cool *and* all the people who made that discovery possible). Computing doesn't quite seem to be ready for that yet. All of the big work, especially on the hardware side, is done by corporations, with huge arrays of people involved, and as much as there are a lot of people who develop a lot of really neat and powerful novel algorithms they get Turing awards already... It would seem kinda silly to be rewarding Intel, or IBM or the like for their fundamental computer research. They do a lot of it, and they deserve industry recognition, (which they get), but I'm not sure it makes much sense to be handing them a nobel prize.

    • "feminist research"

      LOL!

      Either you are an idiot or a cuckold.

      Feminism is not a science. Feminism is a political view, not science.

      Why not apply for "democrat research" or "republican research", or "nazi research".

      • Go back and read his entire post. Then read it again. I guess it's not subtlety day for you.
      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        Well look at the peace prize. How did a newly elected president that hadn't even served long in federal government get it?
        Simple it was a "We didn't like Bush" award.
        And in the end troops still in Iraq, troops still in Afghanistan, and a new air war in Libya.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          I think he was awarded it principally on the basis of winning the election, thereby breaking the racial barrier that precluded any black American from serving as President of the United States for its first 200+ years. That in itself was historic. Was it worthy of the Nobel? Questionable. It's easier to justify in the case of, say, Nelson Mandela, who served years in prison before winning office in South Africa, and where the transition away from apartheid was more abrupt and so easier to appreciate.
          • On the Nobel site they have the following to say:

            The Nobel Peace Prize 2009 was awarded to Barack H. Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples"

            http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2009/ [nobelprize.org]

            Yeah, it's difficult to come away without feeling that he won it for not being Bush. It'd be a different story if they'd awarded it on completion of a successful term in office. He has some pretty notable achievements prior to becoming president, but the above quoted rationale is so hopelessly vague that it does appear to be a bodge.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Then shouldn't the prize had been awarded to the American voter and the President Obama besides you are creating a confortable fiction for yourself.
            The Nobel committee said it was for
            "The Nobel Peace Prize 2009 was awarded to Barack H. Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples""
            Nothing to do about racial barriers.
            It was 100% political and 100% because he wasn't Bush. It was nothing but pure silliness oh and Gitmo is still open.

    • Computing doesn't quite seem to be ready for that yet. All of the big work, especially on the hardware side, is done by corporations, with huge arrays of people involved

      Other than substituting "university" for "corporation" - that's different from the Nobel Prize(s) or any other major prize... how? When the Nobel Prize was started, Really Big Discoveries in the sciences were pretty much the discovery of a single person (with maybe a lab assistant or two) - but that's no longer true and hasn't been for a l

  • by WegianWarrior (649800) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:48PM (#36351970) Journal

    The Nobel prizes were created by the Will of Alfred Nobel, who died quite a long time before modern computers were even a remote possibility. Obviously there was no Nobel prize for computers - nor economics, since economics were not considered a science back then (note that the so called Nobel Prize in economics isn't a Nobel Prize - it's a prize in memory of Alfred Nobel). Maybe there is a need for an internationally recognized prize for outstanding achievements in the field of computer science... but it won't be and can never be a "Nobel Prize".

    Complaining about the fact that Nobel didn't make a provision in his will to institute a prize for a field of science that didn't exists in his time makes even less sense than the creationist argument that evolution isn't a science since Darwin wasn't awarded a Nobel Prize (hint: Darwin died before Nobel).

    • My roommate's cousin's girlfriend's acupuncturist told me that Nobel's wife had a three-way with a mathematician and Lady Ada Lovelace (whose nickname was Linda). Nobel found the videotapes and swore there would never be a Nobel Prize category for math, computer science, or three-ways.

      I'm looking forward to confirming this on Wikipedia tomorrow after I'm done reading about Paul Revere.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Is Evolution a science? It thought it was theory with a massive amount of supporting evidence in the science of biology.

    • Complaining about the fact that Nobel didn't make a provision in his will to institute a prize for a field of science that didn't exists in his time makes even less sense than the creationist argument that evolution isn't a science since Darwin wasn't awarded a Nobel Prize (hint: Darwin died before Nobel).

      But it is probably complaint-worthy that evolution didn't get a category.

  • by gatkinso (15975) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:53PM (#36352060)

    As pointed out many times before.

  • Can't let this story pass without observing that the Nobel Peace Prize has become a bi of a bad joke lately. Particularly with that guy who claims to have invented the Internet winning one for making a scientifically inaccurate movie, and the one to our current President was given that they admitted wasn't for anything he had done but rather for what they hoped he would do (which sounds to me a lot like trying to bribe a public official)
    • Yes. Nobel prizes have slowly become more and more about politics instead of achievements or advancements. My GED is a more prestigious award: At least it is proof that someone actually did something.

      Note: I dropped out of high school to start a software company (to help support my struggling family), which I was able to do at the age of 17 without any formal instruction only due to the amazing advancements in computing technology; Let me know when a high school drop-out that dabbles in physics, chemis

    • Particularly with that guy who claims to have invented the Internet winning one for making a scientifically inaccurate movie

      Does the fact that Al Gore never said he invented the internet make you question whether you're wrong about everything else?

  • Al Gore can add another Nobel Prize to his collection!

  • it should be people like Linus Torvalds & Richard Stallman for their efforts in the GNU/FOSS/Linux because they are benevolently giving away for free what the other business are doing for a profit motive.
  • While the economics prize is _technically_ not a Nobel Prize, everyone calls Paul Krugman the 'Nobel Prize Winner' (Google Nobel Paul Krugman) - including, I might add, the New York Times.

    If someone were to endow the money to define a Computer Science prize, and the Nobel Committee were the ones to award it, I would wager $1000 that it would fairly quickly ( 10 years) be attributed just like the others.

  • When Nobel Prizes are dished out each fall, the most accomplished professionals in computing, telecom and IT have usually been left out in the cold.

    We don't care. The money, the admiration of our fellow men from athletes to MBAs, and (last but not least) the human wave of hot babes throwing themselves at us is reward enough.

  • There's also no Nobel Prize for cooking.

    And why should there be?

  • Giving the Nobel prize to one branch but not others would be retarded.

    For instance, the discovery of public key encryption.

    Number theory or computer science?

    Doh ...

    • by ildon (413912)

      My thought exactly. If anything there should be a Nobel Prize for Mathematics, which important discoveries in computer science would be eligible for.

  • by nomadic (141991)
    Important advances in computing are recognized by the Nobel Prize in physics. This is a non-story.
  • 'The Nobel Prizes, as designated in the Will of Alfred Nobel, are in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace

    Thats because when Nobel died, there was no such thing as IT or "computing" (at least the way we recognise it today), and telecoms were just starting to show some promise.

  • FYI, "IBM, Google, Apple" (and tech in general) benefit form Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/medicine, literature and peace. Not the other way around.

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