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Posts Tagged ‘Nobel Prize’

The Nobel Prize in Physics and Traffic Priority at Roundabouts

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was recently awarded for symmetry breaking and its consequence, the Higgs boson—a particle so well known that, according to the president of the American Physical Society, “[i]f you’re a physicist, you can’t get in a taxi anywhere in the world without having the driver ask you about the Higgs particle.” Teaching the symmetry unit in my own course this semester, I couldn’t help wondering about symmetry as I drove through an apparent example of symmetry: roundabouts or traffic circles.

Roundabouts use two complementary systems for controlling traffic flow: (1) Traffic in the roundabout has priority, or (2) traffic entering the roundabout has priority. The choice seems so symmetric, like choosing right- or left-hand traffic. In the United Kingdom, traffic in the roundabout has priority. In contrast, on many Massachusetts roundabouts, including one on my commute, entering traffic has priority.

The Nobel Prize Goes to an Odd (but Worthy) Economic Trio

I awoke yesterday to the happy news that two of my friends won the Nobel Prize in economics.*

Gene Fama was one of the three recipients.  He and I share two important beliefs about the world.  First, we value empirical research in economics — i.e., getting deep into the data to understand what is going on.  Second, we both believe that golf should be played quickly!  So every weekend, at least once, Gene and I get up before the sun rises and get in 18 holes (walking) in about 2.5 hours.  Gene is 74 years old — he didn’t take up golf until his sixties, and I’ve seen him post a scorecard with multiple birdies on it. 

Gene believes deeply and fundamentally in markets, which is why pairing his prize with Robert Shiller, a market skeptic, is quite odd.  But Shiller is a wonderful economist — someone whose work I read a lot and was inspired by early in my own career — and I’m glad he was chosen.

Al Roth Takes Home the Nobel Prize

Hearty congratulations to Harvard economist Al Roth (now at Stanford), whose work has been featured on many occasions here at the Freakonomics blog!

When I talk about economists, one of the greatest compliments I give is to say that they changed the way people think about the world.  Al Roth definitely fits into that category.  The type of economics he is best known for is what is called “Market Design.”  Essentially, it means bringing market-type thinking to areas in which historically non-market allocation mechanisms have been used.  A few examples of the areas Roth has explored are matching fledgling doctors to hospitals for their residency, matching students to public schools in school choice programs, and matching kidney donors with those who need a kidney.

I know Roth changed my thinking because the first time I read Roth’s work in this area I had a strong reaction: this isn’t really economics.

How to Guess Better on an SAT

A nice analytic giblet from a Times profile of new Nobel economists Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims:

Because of his father’s College Board connections, Mr. Sims got hold of an old SAT exam, which he and Mr. Willoughby used to conduct a statistical analysis. They found that on multiple-choice questions in English and social studies, the “longer answers tended to be correct.” In math, they determined that the number that was “closest to all of the other numerical choices” was probably the right one.

I do wonder if those patterns still hold true in standardized tests. Of course, you can always pay someone else to take the test for you.

Harvard Shuts Down its Nobel Prize Pool

Last week we posted about Harvard’s Nobel Prize Pool, where people could place bets predicting this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for $1 per entry. The Harvard economics faculty ran the site for a few years, dubbing it, “the world’s most accurate prediction market.” Apparently, Harvard wasn’t too keen on the idea, as the following notice now appears on the site:

Unfortunately, we have been advised by Harvard University to immediately shut down the Nobel pool due to legal reasons, and we have decided to comply with this request. We will fully reimburse the money of all participants, and we apologize for any inconvenience this creates for you. All participants will be contacted by email.

For anyone who watched the site closely over the last week, do you remember the odds for the actual winners, Thomas J. Sargent and Christopher A. Sims?

Predicting the Nobel Prize

Next Monday, the Nobel Prize Committee will announce the recipient(s) of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. If you think you know who’s going to score this year’s prize, head on over to Harvard’s Nobel Pool, “the world’s most accurate prediction market.”
Each entry will cost you $1; all entries and bets must be received by 11:59 PM on Sunday, October 9th. If you’re looking for inspiration, past predictions can be found here. And if you haven’t already, listen to our Freakonomics Radio podcast, “The Folly of Predictions,” to find out where we stand on the whole notion of predictions.
So Freakonomics readers, who are you betting on?

What Chess Tells Us About the Value of Perception

As a physics student, I found that I could solve most of the problems simply by looking at derivations and listening carefully to my reactions to the equations. A soft voice inside me would say, “No, that term just doesn’t seem right. Go and find out what went wrong there.” Or, “Ah, these terms hang together and the result feels right. It must be okay.” And it almost always worked out. My piano teacher would do the same when playing an unfamiliar piece of music. She could play it just by making sure it sounded right.
Were these just party tricks? Or was a more fundamental process going on?

How Predictable Are Nobel Prizes in Economics?

I was going through a pile of old papers in my office when I found a sheet entitled “Blackboard at the University of Chicago October 5, 2005: Future Nobel Laureates.” I have no idea who brainstormed the list that was written up on the board, or why. I can’t even remember whether I took part in the exercise, although seeing how good the predictions have turned out, I’m going to assert (rightly or wrongly) that I was one of the predictors.
For your entertainment, here is the list of names that were on the board, in their original order.

Should the Nobel Folks Be Sued for the Financial Crisis?

The recent financial crisis clearly had many contributing villains. But if you’re looking to sue someone to recover losses, Nassim Nicholas Taleb maintains, the choice is clear: the Swedish Central Bank, which awards the Nobel Prize in Economics,

Congratulations to Peter Diamond on Winning the Nobel Prize in Economics

The first time I met Peter Diamond, nearly 20 years ago, I was a prospective student visiting MIT. He was wearing sandals without socks as he taught a graduate class. I remember thinking that was odd. As I sit here in my office, I am wearing sandals without socks. Perhaps Peter Diamond influenced me in ways I never imagined.
I was delighted to see that Peter Diamond shared the Nobel Prize today with two other economists (Mortensen and Pissarides, who I don’t know personally but are very highly respected).

And the Winner is…

While speculation is rising about just who will win this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics (to be announced on Monday), it’s probably worth pointing out that the far more important Ig Nobel Prizes for the year have already been announced.

A Really Productive 12 Days

The announcement that Barack Obama will receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize only 10 months into his presidency surprised many, including us. Even more surprising, Obama was nominated for the award only 12 days after he took office. Now F.P. Passport has taken a look at what Obama did in those 12 days to attract the attention of the Committee.

What This Year's Nobel Prize in Economics Says About the Nobel Prize in Economics

The reaction of the economics community to Elinor Ostrom’s prize will likely be quite different. The reason? If you had done a poll of academic economists yesterday and asked who Elinor Ostrom was, or what she worked on, I doubt that more than one in five economists could have given you an answer. I personally would have failed the test. I had to look her up on Wikipedia, and even after reading the entry, I have no recollection of ever seeing or hearing her name mentioned by an economist.

Tougher to Get Than a Nobel Prize in Economics

The University of Chicago likes to brag about its Nobel laureates. Well, my son’s kindergarten teacher Christina Hayward pulled off a feat that is far tougher statistically than winning the Nobel prize: she took one of ten Golden Apple awards given annually to the most outstanding Chicago-area teachers.

The No-Cigar Medal

Other than winning the Nobel Prize, getting the John Bates Clark medal is the best thing that can happen to an economist. Without question, winning the Clark medal in 2003 totally changed my life. It was because of the Clark medal that Dubner came out to interview me, and eventually Freakonomics was born. The Clark medal used to be awarded . . .

Bush Congratulates Krugman

Yesterday, President Bush invited the most recent round of Nobel laureates to the White House to accept his congratulations. And yes, this included his trenchant critic and economics prize-winner, Paul Krugman. Photo from This photo posted on (from Agence France-Presse) makes me wish I were better at reading body language. I’m going to shamelessly rip off The New . . .

Economist Dan McFadden: Nobel Prize in 2000 … Heisman in 2007?

I honestly couldn’t tell at first if this was a joke or not. Economists can have a strange sense of humor. The Web site Year 2 is reporting that Berkeley economist Dan McFadden has scored a rare double: first a Nobel Prize and then a vote for the Heisman Trophy. It turns out it is a joke. Reading this, though, . . .

The Economist on the Nobel Laureates

Here is a nice article from The Economist with a description of what the recent Nobel Prize in Economics is all about, as well as interesting personal facts about the winners (e.g., Eric Maskin lives in Albert Einstein‘s old house and dresses up as Einstein for Halloween).

What New Nobel Laureate Roger Myerson Is Talking About Tonight

At a Nobel press conference yesterday, a reporter asked Roger Myerson to name the next important thing he had on his agenda. Myerson responded that he had to give a speech for Gary Becker‘s workshop the next day — i.e., today. The paper he is presenting is not your typical economics paper, especially for someone who just won the Nobel . . .

Chicago Economist Roger Myerson One of Three to Win Nobel

I was delighted to wake up this morning and discover that I have yet another Nobel Laureate as a colleague. Congratulations to Roger Myerson! (And also to Eric Maskin and Leo Hurwicz, who shared the prize.) The prize was “for having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory.” Mechanism design formalizes ways of thinking about how a social planner, manager, . . .

The Nobel Prize in Economics

By the time you read this, the Nobel Prize in economics will likely have been awarded, though as I write this, the winners have yet to be announced. A few random thoughts: 1) I guarantee you that the economist(s) who win it will be much better sports than Doris Lessing, who seemed put off that the award had disturbed her . . .

A Thomas Schelling Biography

Robert Dodge has written a biography of Thomas Schelling, which is available now. I just found out about it and ordered it, so I have not read it yet. I have read the delightful preface written by Richard Zeckhauser, a long-time colleague of Schelling at Harvard, which exactly captures my interactions with Schelling. Schelling is a Nobel prize winner in . . .

Nobel Prize Winner Thomas Schelling

I’ve changed addresses 10 times since I graduated from college. And each time I’ve moved, I’ve looked at the battered old box of college notebooks and debated whether it was time to throw the box out. After all, it has been more than 15 years and the box has never once been opened. Thomas Schelling winning the Nobel prize in . . .

Found on a blackboard at the University of Chicago

I found this list of what is supposed to be the future winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics on a blackboard at the U of C, for what it is worth. Who knows whether the people who made the list know what they are talking about. There are about 40 people on the list, and about 2 people get . . .