The 6 Most Baffling Nobel Prizes Ever Awarded
A whole lot of people complained 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.
Yasser Arafat Wins for Agreeing to Stop Killing Jews for a While
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."
Nobel Economics Prize Winner Loses Billions
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!
Two 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.
Scientist 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?
Al Gore Wins Oscar for PowerPoint Presentation, Gets Nobel Prize.
"What!" you exclaim as you munch on organically-grown arugula and look up prices on used Priuses. "How dare you mock Al Gore, the man who has done so much to alert the world about climate change? He's the hero of our time! He's the Martin Luther King, Jr. of the environment!"
Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 for helping spread the word about man-made climate change, which helps world peace because shut up, that's why. Whether or not you agree with him is your business. But it looks like he might not agree with himself.
Al Gore's house in Nashville uses over 12 times the amount of energy that a normal American house uses. "It's OK!" you say. "It's green energy!" But Gore didn't make the switch to green energy until after he started getting criticized. Then there's the pesky little fact that he owns over a quarter million dollars worth of stock in Occidental Petroleum, a big and evil oil company started by his father's buddy Arm and Hammer.
Then there's his personal jet, which he claims to make up for by buying renewable energy credits. Though a lot of those green kilowatts are actually produced in coal power plants. And not so-called "clean coal" either, because Al Gore is making sure that dream doesn't come true.
But maybe worse than that is who got shafted out of the prize so Gore could win. Namely Irene Sendler, a Polish nurse who saved (as in, carried on her back) over 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto, got captured by the fucking Gestapo and refused to reveal their names even after being severely tortured. After escaping with two broken legs, she said "motherfuck this shit," went back to the ghetto, and saved more Jewish children.
Oh, and, guess what? She died in 2008, making her ineligible to win in the future.
Nobel Prize for Carving Out People's Souls
You know what's just great? Cutting people's brains out.
What, you don't agree? Then you're also disagreeing with the Nobel Prize Committee, who awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in Medicine to Dr. Antonio Moniz, the brilliant man behind a little procedure called the lobotomy.
When not forming political parties in his native Portugal, Moniz spent his free time pursuing his hobby of independent medical experimentation. That's right, he pretty much just performed tests on dead bodies in his basement for fun.
By the 1930s he was one of the most famous men in Portugal, which is about the equivalent of being one of the best basketball players in the state of Idaho. In 1935, he performed the first successful lobotomy, which involved drilling holes in the patient's skull and killing brain tissue by injecting it with alcohol. But don't worry, the surgeon general's warning on that ninth Smirnoff bottle is really just a suggestion.
Well, naturally, old-timey Europe was just delighted at the idea. Husbands started using lobotomies to silence their wives, and parents relied on it to control unruly children. Moniz won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1949, dying a few years later after getting shot up by one of his patients.
However, it wasn't long before people started wondering how cool these emotionless lobotomized patients were with the fact that their souls had been ripped out. The Soviet Union banned the procedure in 1950, calling it "contrary to the principles of humanity." Which is kind of like the Emperor telling you that you're acting like a dick.
"Seriously, dude, lighten up a bit."
Nonetheless, lobotomies continued to be performed across the world, most notably in Scandinavia. It wasn't until the 70s when they became pretty much taboo in the Western world, though there are a few still being done today.
Meanwhile, you know who never won a Nobel Prize? Robert fucking Jarvik, the guy who invented the artificial heart.
Really, Nobel? Really?
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For more questionable choices made back in the day, check out 8 Terrifying Instruments Old-Time Doctors Used on Your Junk. Or find out about some more lucky scientists, in 5 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World.
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