Who would have thought one year ago that we would still be dealing with the global pandemic for this year's Nobel prize season, but here we are. And just like last year, with the entire world shut down it is difficult to think of any major scientific advancements this year that have warranted the biggest prize in science, and thus this year's predictions will be very similar to last year's. 

As with last year, we really didn't see a major scientific discovery as we did with the Higgs discovery or the confirmation of gravitational waves. Theories such as cosmic inflation or the existence of dark matter are well accepted by the scientific community, but have not yet been proven experimentally. Any of the major physics theories that would have garnered an instant win continue to be just unproven theories, and thus are excluded from consideration.

Once again I feel the need to review a few of the rules around the Nobel Prize. Every year when I make my predictions, I have readers from outside of the scientific community complain that I "forgot" to list certain people, ignorant of the fact that these particular scientists are not under consideration for various reasons. For example, the award can only go to living recipients, which immediately excludes many amazing theories and deserving scientists. The Nobel rules also forbid the prize from being awarded to more than three people, which excludes larger groups and collaborations from consideration, unless they have a clear leader, and also excludes theories that have evolved over many years by many different researchers.

The committee also tends to be very conservative in terms of awarding the prize to ideas that have been so well proven experimentally that there is no doubt that they are true. This eliminates most of the theoretical physics community immediately. For example, although most physicists agree that the theory of cosmic inflation and the existence of dark matter are both true, neither has been verified experimentally to a sufficient level to justify a Nobel Prize.

So then the question each year is, who will win the biggest prize of all?

And once again that is a difficult question, because once again there are no obvious candidates this year. There is still a slim chance that the people who discovered dark energy twenty years ago could earn a prize, since the existence of dark energy has been confirmed by multiple supernovae surveys and by observations of the cosmic microwave background. However in my opinion, the lack of a universally accepted theory of dark energy will once more exclude it from the prize. There are also some interesting candidates in the field of astronomy, such as the discovery of exoplanets or some of the more recent work on the origin of gamma rays and cosmic rays, or in the imaging of a distant black hole by multiple astronomers two years ago, but once again I do not feel that any of these candidates are significant advances or have a clear creator, and thus will not warrant a Nobel Prize.

As before, I suspect that the committee will probably give this year's prize to a technological advance instead of a purely scientific advance. I couldn't even begin to guess which technology they would recognize with a Nobel prize, but my instinct right now is that that will be the area that they have been looking at. I do feel that with the growth of quantum computing in recent years, and a few working quantum computers at D-Wave, IBM, and Google, there is a small chance that some of the pioneers in quantum computing might receive it, as the inventors of the microchip did a little over a decade ago, but I don't think the committee will recognize that field until the machines are more powerful and more common.

Whichever idea earns a Nobel Prize this year, we can be certain that it will have been a major achievement and advance in scientific knowledge, and that the recipients will be very deserving of it. Whether it is an advance in pure science, or in technology, it will be something that has changed our understanding of the world. And quite likely it will be an advancement that no one has predicted, given the nature of the achievements recognized in recent years, but one that was obvious in hindsight.

For tonight all we can do is speculate and wait for the committee to make their announcement. Whichever team they select, we can be certain that it will be well deserved.