4Two Guys Win the Nobel Prize in Physics for an Accident
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.
3Scientist Wins the Nobel Prize in Douchebaggery
Don't think scientists can be dicks? Think again.
Italian physicist Carlo Rubbia wanted nothing more than to win a Nobel Prize. He crafted his career around it, ignoring certain projects and working only on experiments that he deemed big enough to put him in contention for the prize. In 1961, he went to work for our good friends at CERN, focusing his attention on the nuclear weak force. What does that do? Well, according to Google, it makes shit turn up on itself and Paul Simon to appear out of thin air.
Pictured: What the nuclear weak force does.
In 1983, Rubbia took control of a team of physicists tasked with finding and isolating two theoretical particles called the W and Z bosons. Finding them would prove the Electroweak Theory, which had given its authors the Nobel Physics prize four years prior. Carlo Rubbia could just taste his Nobel, and the sweet, sweet prize money that came with it.
That medal better be solid gold, Norway, or it's going straight to eBay.
There was just one problem: Another, smaller team in another laboratory was also looking for the bosons, and both teams found the W bozon at the same time. Worried for his precious Nobel, Rubbia told the other team that they had to compare and review their results before publishing. He then went behind their backs and submitted his own.
A little while later, the second team found the Z bozon first. They were prepared for Rubbia's dickery this time: They had already written their results paper, and just had to fill in the blanks with their measurements. But when Rubbia's team found the Z boson a day later, he ran to the director of CERN, who went straight to the press and announced that CERN had made the astounding discovery.
A year later, Rubbia and his colleague won the Nobel Prize for their extraordinary discoveries, and their successful repression of the competition. The other team wasn't even mentioned.
Ain't science a bitch?