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Guessing game starts as Nobel season nears

04 october 2012, 15:39
0
Photo courtesy of todaysthv.com
Photo courtesy of todaysthv.com
Early October means it's time for the annual Nobel Prize announcements and frenzied guessing over possible winners, with 231 Peace Prize nominees rumoured to range from ex-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to burka opponent Sima Samar and US scholar Gene Sharp, AFP reports.

This year, the juries are going to great lengths to keep the laureates' names under wraps in the run-up to the announcements, which start on Monday, October 8 and run daily until they wind up a week later with the Economics Prize.

While it is usually difficult to predict who will be recognised for pioneering research in the scientific fields -- Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics -- the public can play the guessing game when it comes to the Peace and Literature prizes.

The Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, is known for its cloak-and-dagger methods to prevent any leaks about its choice, resorting to codenames for authors and fake book covers when reading in public.

In 2005, when British playwright Harold Pinter got the nod, the members of the Academy's committee referred to him as Harry Potter, whose initials he shared.

Rumours of a potential leak at the Academy swirled last year, prompting anti-corruption prosecutors to investigate why betting odds on Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer went from 13-1 to less than 2-1 in the hours before the Academy read out his name.

The probe was later dismissed due to lack of evidence, but the Academy is taking extra precautions this year and is limiting the number of people who have access to the winner's name.

As such it is dispensing with its usual routine of sending a courrier with a sealed envelope containing the name of the winner to news outlets.

"Last year the Swedish Academy launched a review aimed at limiting the number of external actors to improve secrecy.... Unfortunately we will not be able to provide the special courriers that deliver the citation to your newsdesk," the foreign ministry informed news outlets in August.

In line with tradition, and unlike the other prizes, the date of the Literature Prize announcement is revealed only a couple of days before.

Perhaps the most talked-about of the awards, the Nobel Peace Prize, appears to be a wide open race this year with no clear frontrunner.

A total of 231 nominees are in the running, and although the prize committee never discloses the nominees' names, Bill Clinton, Helmut Kohl, the EU and WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning are known to be on the list.

The head of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, Kristian Berg Harpviken, follows the work of the Peace Prize committee closely and each year publishes his own shortlist of possible winners.

The list includes Gene Sharp, an American political theorist and expert on non-violent revolution, Russian rights group Memorial and its founder Svetlana Gannushkina, and independent Russian media outlet Echo of Moscow and its chief editor Aleksei Venediktov.

A Nigerian duo campaigning against the misuse of religion, Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Mohamed Sa'ad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto, are also on it, as is Myanmar President Thein Sein.

Afghan human rights activist, ex-minister and burka opponent Sima Samar is also seen as a possible winner.

Meanwhile, in an unusual twist, one of the science prizes is generating some buzz this year.

The discovery in July of a new fundamental particle believed to be the Higgs boson is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the field of physics in the past half-century, and is widely considered Nobel Prize-winning research.

But the Physics Prize committee is staying mum about whether it will win.

"It's a big discovery. That's all I'm going to say," committee member Lars Brink told AFP.

The Medicine Prize will start off the award season on Monday, October 8, followed by the Physics Prize the next day and the Nobel Chemistry Prize on Wednesday, October 10.

The Literature Prize laureate is traditionally announced on a Thursday and could be revealed on October 11, with the Peace Prize following on October 12.

The Economics Prize, which has been dominated by Americans over the years, is the last prize to be announced, on Monday, October 15.

The Nobel Foundation has slashed the prize sum because of the economic crisis to 8.0 million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million, 930,940 euros) per award, down from the 10 million kronor awarded since 2001.

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