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Nobel Prize: Blessing or Curse?

nobelScientists can spend theirentire career on a single idea, or elaborate experiment, and never find anything new. But if they make a significant breakthrough and discover what they have been looking for, they can win the ultimate prize: the Nobel Prize.

Is the Nobel Prize, and any other high-profile recognition, a valid indicator of being an excellent scientist? In their ambition to pursue the Nobel gold, are scientists deceived by galactic mirages? Does the Nobel Prize hamper scientific progress by encouraging speed and competition while punishing inclusivity, collaboration, and innovation?

To discuss these provocative ideas, we invited two astronomers whose life and career have been closely connected with the Nobel Prize. Brian Keating, Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego, was a member of the BICEP2, a cosmology telescope that was thought to have witnessed the Big Bang in 2014. In his book, “Losing the Nobel Prize,” Brian tells the inside story of the BICEP2's detection and the ensuing scientific drama. Alex Filippenko, Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, was the only person to have been a member of both teams that revealed the accelerating expansion of the Universe.  This groundbreaking discovery led to the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for the teams’ leaders.

The scientists will describe their experiences in the fast-paced field of cosmology and whether the idea that their research could lead to a Nobel Prize influenced their work. They’ll also share their thoughts on the pursuit of fame and the question of ethics in modern science.

Panel: Alex Filippenko, UC Berkeley; Brian Keating, UC San Diego, moderated by Seth Shostak, SETI

Tuesday, 09/10/19


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