Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor

Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor

by Brian Keating


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A Forbes, Physics Today, Science News, and Science Friday Best Science Book Of 2018

The inside story of a quest to unlock one of cosmology’s biggest mysteries, derailed by the lure of the Nobel Prize.

What would it have been like to be an eyewitness to the Big Bang? In 2014, astronomers wielding BICEP2, the most powerful cosmology telescope ever made, revealed that they’d glimpsed the spark that ignited the Big Bang. Millions around the world tuned in to the announcement broadcast live from Harvard University, immediately igniting rumors of an imminent Nobel Prize. But had these cosmologists truly read the cosmic prologue or, swept up in Nobel dreams, had they been deceived by a galactic mirage?

In Losing the Nobel Prize, cosmologist and inventor of the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) experiment Brian Keating tells the inside story of BICEP2’s mesmerizing discovery and the scientific drama that ensued. In an adventure story that spans the globe from Rhode Island to the South Pole, from California to Chile, Keating takes us on a personal journey of revelation and discovery, bringing to vivid life the highly competitive, take-no-prisoners, publish-or-perish world of modern science. Along the way, he provocatively argues that the Nobel Prize, instead of advancing scientific progress, may actually hamper it, encouraging speed and greed while punishing collaboration and bold innovation. In a thoughtful reappraisal of the wishes of Alfred Nobel, Keating offers practical solutions for reforming the prize, providing a vision of a scientific future in which cosmologists may, finally, be able to see all the way back to the very beginning.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324000914
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/24/2018
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Brian Keating is a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego; a Fellow of the American Physical Society; a commercially rated pilot; and the director of the Simons Observatory. He received the 2007 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for his work on BICEP. He lives with his family in La Jolla, California.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Noble Will ix

Chapter 1 Reading the Cosmic Prologue 1

Chapter 2 Losing My Religions 8

Chapter 3 A Brief History of Time Machines 28

Chapter 4 The Bigger the Bang, the Bigger the Problems 51

Chapter 5 Broken Lens I: The Nobel Prize's Credit Problem 81

Chapter 6 Ashes to Ashes 92

Chapter 7 The Spark That Ignited the Big Bang 110

Chapter 8 Bicep: The Ultimate Time Machine 135

Chapter 9 Heroes of Fire, Heroes of Ice 150

Chapter 10 Broken Lens 2: The Nobel Prize's Cash Problem 171

Chapter 11 Elation! 189

Chapter 12 Inflation and Its Discontents 205

Chapter 13 Broken Lens 3: The Nobel Prize's Collaboration Problem 219

Chapter 14 Deflation 233

Chapter 15 Poetry for Physicists 249

Chapter 16 Restoring Alfred's Vision 262

Epilogue An Ethical Will 275

Acknowledgments 283

Notes 289

Index 313

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