As we move into October, we enter what scientists know as Nobel Season. The Chemistry prize will be announced next Wednesday, so it's time for the annual sport of figuring out who will get it. For those keeping score at home, here's the list of previous winners.
Last year I looked around for a betting market, but the action was pretty thin. I haven't detected any great amounts of money hitting the table this year, either, but Thomson ISI does have their poll going again. But it's next to useless, as far as I can tell, because I don't see any of their listed choices as front-runners for the award this year. (Nature's Sceptical Chymist blog agrees).
For example, I have nothing against Dave Evans and Steve Ley, who are both top-rank synthetic organic chemists. But if they're on the list in that category, there are several others who should be, too - not that I think it's necessarily going to be a synthetic organic year. And it wouldn't surprise me to see Stuart Schreiber eventually win a Nobel, but I think the committee can safely wait on that one, too, since his resume is still lengthening nicely. And as for Tobin Marks, it would surprise me to see another organometallic-themed award right after last year's. No, if Thomson's site had a secure connection to put my credit card down on a bet, I'd take the field rather than their choices and feel very happy about it.
Over at the Endless Frontier, Paul Bracher has his money down on either the green fluorescent protein folks (Tsien et al) or perennial pick George Whitesides. Keep in mind, though, that he works for Whitesides, so he may not have the most objective opinion there. I wouldn't object to a win for him, though, but I'd like to see how the committee would phrase it - the traditional line on a Whitesides pick is that he's contributed to too many areas to pin down. More Nobels have gone to hedgehogs than to foxes.
The green fluorescent protein suggestion is a good one, though. And perhaps this will be the year that the committee recognizes RNA interference, which could land in the chemistry award as easily as anywhere else. My runner-up to those suggestions is nanoscale structures (Stoddart et al.), but I have that pick running substantially behind the other two. That's mainly because the other two have demonstrated some real-world utility, but hey, fullerenes. Add your own picks in the comment section, and let's see who calls it.