Some people get a little antsy this time of year. Some because they expect a wakeup call from Stockholm, and some because they worry that whoever is going to get the call is not worthy. I've known physicists in both categories. The technology end of the prize has been forgotten recently, which is why I am glad the Physics prize went to CCDs and fiber optics, as they really changed our world, science and otherwise.
However, it is not the Physics prize I have come to talk to you about today. I woke up this morning to the news that our President, Barack Obama, will be awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Peace. I am trying to figure out what he has done for peace. What definitive actions has this president, sitting for less than 9 months, done to promote peace, here or abroad? I can't really come up with anything. Wars are still going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the notorious detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is still open.
Sure, there has been some strong rhetoric, but this is not what the prize is awarded for. Back in the day, Einstein didn't receive a Nobel Prize for Special Relativity because it wasn't well enough established, even though most people at the time could see that it had to be right. Likewise, President Obama could very well do many things to promote peace, he is, after all, the President of the most powerful nation in the world. This is why the awarding of the prize this year to him rings hollow.
In his defense, however, he has probably done more to promote world peace than Al Gore. Really, the Peace Prize has become more of a popularity contest than anything. The committee makes these decisions with political motivations, which really waters down the prize. I mean, really, Al Gore for pushing shoddy science, and now Barack Obama for talk of Hope.