Sometime tomorrow morning the Nobel Prize committee will announce the winners of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics. And that means that physicists around the world are spending the afternoon speculating on what achievement has been significant enough to warrant a prize. And in many case, further speculation on who among its discoverers will be chosen. 

This year there are no clear front runners, but I have been hearing some speculations that are interesting.

One prediction that I have seen, which is probably more wishful thinking than reality, is that this year they will give the award to some of the people who were left out in previous years. (For those who are not aware of the somewhat controversial Nobel rules, it cannot be award posthumously, and more important in history is that it can never be awarded to more than three people. So if four or five or twelve people shared in the discovery, someone is going to be jilted by the committee). Certainly in the 1960s and 1970s there were many people who believed that people like Freeman Dyson or John Ward were unfairly excluded from the prizes for quantum field theory and for SU(2) gauge theory. Personally I think that that the Nobel committee won't go that far back in time, but I could be wrong.

A similar prediction that I have heard is that this year the prize will go to some of the early work on gauge symmetry breaking which lead to the Higgs model. The Higgs model got a lot of press coverage when the Higgs particle was discovered at the LHC in 2012, and two of its creators were awarded the Nobel prize. What many people do not know is that there were at least a dozen theorist who worked on the model before it was generally accepted. The details are too extensive to include here, but it would not be surprising to see some of those people receive an award this year for developing the idea of spontaneous symmetry breaking and the subsequent creation of boson particles. I think that this one is possible, and there are a few of those pioneers who are still alive and active in research, so it could happen. But as with the previous prediction, the Nobel committee might not want to go that far back in time.

In the modern research, I do not see many big discoveries that are worthy of a Nobel. Some people thought that the measurement of gravitational wave polarization in the early universe, and its confirmation of the theory of inflation, might lead to a Nobel Prize for Guth and Linde, the developers of inflationary models, but then the subsequent doubts that were cast on the results by a second team of astrophysicists has probably ended that possibility. Other people have discussed prizes for exoplanet discoveries or for the water on Mars discovery, but again I don't see any major confirmed discoveries that are big enough for the prize. 

And so my prediction is that the committee will ultimately award it for a technical advancement rather than for a major physics discovery. In the past they have given the physics prize for the creation of microchips, of white LEDs, and of the light sensors in digital cameras. I am not sure what technology will attract their attention this year - maybe 3D printing or maybe smart phone technology, or something similar. The other possibility that I could see is that the Nobel committee will decide that one of the turn of the millennium discoveries will get recognized, such as the discovery of dark energy in 1998 or the discovery of neutrino oscillations a few years later. I think both of those would be good candidates as well.

For now only the Nobel committee knows who and what will receive the award this year. The rest of us will just have the wait and see.