Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor Hardcover – 15 Jan 2019
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Brian Keating's riveting new book tells the inside story of the search for cosmic origins, emphasizing the influence of Nobel dreams and laying bare the question of whether the lure of grand prizes is ultimately a good thing for science.--Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe<br \><br \>Visionary Brian Keating takes us along on a refreshing and honest journey to see how great discoveries are made and unmade. This is one of the greatest stories told in cosmology. I couldn't put it down!--Stephon Alexander, Professor of Physics, Brown University, jazz musician, and author of The Jazz of Physics<br \><br \>In this riveting personal account, Brian Keating writes frankly of his challenges, frustrations, and motivations during the years spent building and operating the instruments used to tackle one of the most fundamental problems in science: how our universe began.--Martin J. Rees, Astronomer Royal and author of Universe<br \><br \>Brian Keating's compulsively readable book shows us the human side of science: the passion, the competition, the jealousies, the mistakes, the triumphs, the heartbreaks. A first-hand account of how science happens at the very highest levels.--Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture<br \><br \>Brian Keating is a wonderful storyteller with a very good story to tell. His tale is provocative and evocative as he takes us on a highly personal journey to the heart of the scientific exploration of the universe.--Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute, and author of Time Reborn<br \><br \>I loved this well-told tale of science, passion, and the pursuit--literally to the ends of the earth--of life's purest questions. Brian Keating weaves together a must-read drama of big dreams, awe-inspiring technology, and a belief in the power of science to solve any puzzle. He is thoroughly modern and forward facing, questioning the veneration of the Nobel Prize, and making the case with his heartfelt story that the real prize is in the science itself.--Julian Guthrie, author of How to Make a Spaceship<br \><br \>Three fascinating tales entwine between these covers; a young man growing to scientific maturity, an elusive baby picture of our universe, and the prize he hoped that picture would garner. The story, enthralling as it is, remains unfinished.--Jill Tarter, Bernard M. Oliver Chair, SETI Institute<br \><br \>A fascinating blend of personal history and an honest behind-the-scenes look at high-stakes science. Brian Keating was at the origin of what appeared to be one of the most exciting discoveries in modern cosmology. His vivid storytelling brings humanity's search for the origin of the Universe to life. --Jay Pasachoff, author of Peterson Field Guide to the Stars and Planets
Cosmologists had thought that they had glimpsed a distant image of the first moments of the universe. Instead, this image turned out to be 'smudge on the window' galactic dust once again bedeviling cosmologists. Keating conveys this exciting search through a personal tale of the ups and downs of cutting edge science. --David Spergel, Professor, Princeton University, Co-Winner of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
A fascinating autobiographical account, full of intriguing detail, of the passions and inspirations that underlie the scientific quest to comprehend the nature and origins of our universe...A highly thoughtful and informative book. --Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford and author of The Emperor's New Mind
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.
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Keating’s story is particularly interesting given the huge implications of his research, however the most pleasing aspect of his book is the way in which scientists are shown to be (above all) human! Would recommend this book to anyone wanting to gain some understanding of observational cosmology or some insight as to how the competitive world of astronomy (and science in general) really works.
On March 17 2014, a team of astronomers announced at a press conference, held at Harvard University, that they had detected traces of the so-called B-modes - the faint, wiggly signatures produced when the baby universe inflated - using a special type of telescope called BICEP2. Although Keating was co-leader of the project he was regarded by some as a competitor and had not been invited to the press conference. Even his name was barely mentioned during the announcement. Still, despite the snubbing, there was every chance that this discovery would offer him a ticket to Stockholm to collect his golden reward.
Or maybe not.
This book tells the inside story of the quest to find signals from the birth of the universe and the scientific drama that followed. There is plenty of cosmology along the way, clearly explained in a witty and charming style that makes the book a pleasure to read.
Intermingled amongst the cosmology are chapters on the Nobel Prize. Here the author argues that the Nobel Prize has failed to live up to its reputation and rather than advance scientific progress, actually promotes greed and punishes collaboration and innovation. Thoughtfully, he offers his own solutions on how the prize can be reformed and modernised so that it works alongside 21st century science in a more positive way.
This book is a real page-turner and one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Highly recommended.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Robert S. Mittler, PhD, is a retired immunologist, a former faculty member of Emory University School of Medicine, and cosmology enthusiast, more accustomed to looking at things alive and very small through the lenses of a microscope, rather than at the vastness of the universe through a telescope.
While the Nobel Prizes have been (and remain) landmark awards for anyone seeking to better our world through science, Keating outlines a number of very valid considerations about the Nobel Committee and its system, as well as ethical considerations that apply more broadly to the sciences in general. However, in taking an introspective and personal look at his own scientific work, achievements, and shortcomings, Keating illustrates the all-too-human aspects behind what motivates discovery, and in doing so, highlights a number of "intellectual landmines" that any serious student of science should be aware of.
Well written and cleverly crafted, "Losing the Nobel Prize" is a book any fans of popular science will both enjoy and appreciate.
In this wide-ranging book, Dr. Keating describes the life of a scientist working on cutting-edge research (at the Geographic South Pole, no less!) and shows how science, despite being humanity's highest pursuit, is still a product of humans and is susceptible to human imperfections. In his world, navigating the highs of discovery, the lows of political infighting, and the all-around surprising, he begins to question the highest honor of the field and its impact on science and scientists. He lays out arguments against the Nobel prize's antiquated, arbitrary, and often deeply sexist rules and offers a suggestion that rewards serendipity, collaboration, and fairness.
Dr. Keating shows how a scientific discovery (or near-discovery) can be a deeply personal story, full of joy, grief, and awe, and how careers can be made or broken in the pursuit of a Nobel prize.