A whole lot of people complained last year when Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for what was apparently two months of ground-breaking work in the fields of teleprompter reading and ab maintenance.
But maybe people shouldn't have been surprised. A look at Nobel prize history shows quite a few WTF choices.
We trust you know Yasser Arafat? The bug-eyed old Palestinian leader who absolutely, totally hated Israel? He founded a group called Fatah, whose stated goal is the "eradication of Zionist economic, political, military, and cultural existence." Sounding peaceful yet? (And if it is, thanks for reading, Osama!)
Did I do that?
Eventually he renounced terrorism and became more of an unofficial diplomat, traveling across the world representing Palestine. In 1993, Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, which officially ended the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Oh, wait, no they absolutely did not.
From the mid-60s to the late-80s, Fatah and its militant arms remained active across the Middle East, especially Israel and Lebanon. They plotted terrorist attacks, participated in guerrilla warfare, trained foreign militant groups and did generally not-so-peaceful stuff. Arafat soon became the international face of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Fatah's most famous attack was the Munich massacre, which if you type into Google enough times will make Mossad agents blow through your door and drag you away to "The Farm."
And it doesn't look like this at all.
Fatah, incidentally, is Arabic for "conquest by means of jihad." What's not peaceful about that?
So basically, after decades of murder and mayhem, Arafat decided to call it a day and retire. And for that, he won a Nobel Prize. Summing this path to Nobel stardom up rather nicely, Reason Magazine suggested, "Start an NGO devoted to murder and mayhem-something on the SPECTRE/Al Qaeda/Medellin Cartel model-and then agree to a truce."
What would you do with a formula that could predict the markets? You could know exactly when stocks and commodities will go up or down. You could have given Bill Gates 10 bucks in the 70s and become a multi-millionaire 20 years later. You could have spent that million to buy property in the 90s and sold it all off the day before the market collapsed. You would have infinite power over probability and the stock market. Sort of like that X-Men chick Domino.
She can manipulate our probability any day of the week, if you know what we mean.
In the 1970s, economists Myron Scholes, Fischer Black and Robert Merton came up with the Black-Scholes Model for Equity, a name that Robert Merton was no doubt just fucking delighted about. In layman's terms, Black-Scholes tries to predict a stock's long-term value based on previous performances and on whether people are betting for or against it. In other words, it could predict the stock market.
As you would imagine, investors went just giddy over this new discovery. People were predicting huge returns and zero risk. Black died in 1995, but Scholes and Merton won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1997 after the model became a standard across the world. Scholes founded an investment company called Long-Term Capital Management in the early 90s. Naturally, being a world-renowned economist, he had thousands of rich guys clamoring to be his customers.
There was just one problem. Scholes and crew assumed that all investors were cold, logical computers whose every move was a quantified calculation. They forgot to account for the fact that when things get a little dicey, people are fucking retards.
"Shut up!" "No, you shut up!"
When the East Asian Financial Crisis hit, all the stocks that Scholes's precious formula told him were going up came crashing down faster than a cocaine addict going cold turkey after a 10-year bender. In 1998, his firm lost $4.6 billion in four months, and by 2000 it had caved.
Hey, but they still have that Nobel prize!
How awesome would it be if you accidentally spilled Benadryl into a jar of expired tomato sauce and found the cure for cancer? Or if you fell and discovered a new species of nuclear-powered cockroach staring back at you on the floor? Well, meet Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson, two scientists who basically tripped into fame and glory.
Before the 1960s, scientists had no idea how the universe was created. Some were arguing for the Big Bang Theory. Others took up the much less scientific position of "It just fucking happened." However, a few of the Big Bang guys realized that they could find proof: If the universe really was born in a huge Michael Bay explosion, there would still be traces of post-explosion energy left over in space. Three cosmologists predicted that said traces of the Big Bang would be in the form of microwave radiation, and would be distributed pretty evenly across the universe at a temperature of 5-Kelvin. Unfortunately nobody could find it.
That is until 1964, when Wilson and Penzias were working on a new antenna at the Bell At&T Telephone Labs in New Jersey. When they pointed their super-sensitive antenna out to the sky, they picked up a faint, strange radio signal coming from all around them. The brilliant physicists' first guess? That it was interference from pigeon shit.
Pictured: louder than the universe.
After cleaning out the pigeon crap that had built up inside the antenna and shooting every pigeon in sight, the two found that the noise was still there. They ruled out radio interference from New York City, the military and, presumably, aliens. Then they finally heard about the theoretical microwave radiation that better physicists than them had predicted. One scientist, Robert Dicke, was about to design an experiment to find it. Upon getting the call from Penzias, he turned to his colleagues and said, "Well boys, we've been scooped." Which is scientist for "FUUUCK!"
For their extraordinary work in being really lucky, Penzias and Wilson won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978.
Thanks to the Pigeon Shit 9000.
By the way, did we mention that Penzias and Wilson's antenna was only able to detect microwaves because it was equipped with something called a Dicke Radiometer? Yeah, patented by the same Robert H. Dicke.