2527: New Nobel Prizes

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New Nobel Prizes
They've endowed a separate prize in Physiology or Medicine or Stopping Dr. Adams.
Title text: They've endowed a separate prize in Physiology or Medicine or Stopping Dr. Adams.


The Nobel Prize is a set of prizes awarded in memory of Alfred Nobel to, "those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind."

In this comic a Nobel prize is being awarded for the discovery of two new Nobel prizes. This parallels Nobel Prizes awarded for the discovery of new elements. However, unlike elements, Nobel Prizes cannot be discovered.[citation needed]

The comic suggests that the doctor, presumably a social psychologist and the world's top expert on Impostor Syndrome, being awarded the prize came up with the idea of "discovering" Nobel Prizes, and no one can figure out how to stop awarding them to her. In reality, the categories were established by Alfred Nobel's will for contributions or discoveries in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. In 1968, Sweden's central bank funded an award for economics in honor of its 300th anniversary that is also colloquially called the Nobel Prize in Economics. While there is currently a petition to add a Nobel prize for contributions to environmental conservation, it would presumably also need external funding, although the decision process is unclear.

The title text is a play on the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, insinuating that the Nobel Assembly (the group in charge of awarding Nobel Prizes) has become so desperate to stop Doctor Adams that they have decided to award a Nobel Prize to anyone who can make her stop 'discovering' new prizes. The joke also plays on the name of the said prize, because as of the writing of this comic the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is the only Nobel Prize with two subjects (i.e. with "or" in the title). This may also be a jab by Randall at the fields of Physiology and Medicine, as poking fun at other disciplines is a recurring theme on xkcd. [citation needed]

This comic was published on the Monday the week following the announcements of the 2021 Nobel Prize recipients.


[Megan stands at a podium on a stage, facing right. Behind her is a screen showing eight Nobel Prizes. Ponytail is approaching the front of the stage while waving.]
Megan: And all eight Nobel Prizes for the Discovery of New Nobel Prizes have been awarded to...
Megan: *sigh*
Megan: ...Doctor Adams, again, for the discovery of two new Prizes.
Dr. Adams: Thank you, thank you!
[Caption below frame:]
We don't know how she started this and now we can't figure out how to stop her.

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I can't understand the title text --GcGYSF(asterisk)P(vertical line)e (talk) 02:33, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

It means they made stopping Dr. Adams part of the medicine category of Nobel prizes. ---- -- who didn't use a condom (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I think it's implying that they're so desperate to stop Dr. Adams that they're offering a Nobel Prize to whoever gets her to stop. 03:09, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

I think the comic is riffing on the gender imbalance. We're led to expect the dialogue to say all this year's Nobel prizes went to men (which in 2021 they did - which was newsworthy). ---- -- who didn't use tildes (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Indeed, because there is no Nobel Prize for Mathematics laureate to tell them that the odds of this happening are 1/64, which isn't *that* surprising, especially given that the gender imbalance, (for whatever reason(s), good or bad) mean that the odds are actually higher because it's not an even 50/50 chance to pick a specific gender per 'coin flip.' For instance if the split were 75:25 in favor of women, then the odds of an all-female prize winning year would be ~18%, which means that at least every 6th year random chance should deliver a all-female-winner year if genders really do have no role in awarding winners. Ergo, it's only newsworthy if you have a political angle. 16:40, 12 October 2021 (UTC)
You're assuming that there are only 6 winners, when in fact there were 13. Assuming a 75:25 split, that's only a 2% chance. Ahecht (talk) 17:22, 13 October 2021 (UTC)
Not all of them went to men. The Peace prize was shared by Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov. Ahecht (talk) 17:22, 13 October 2021 (UTC)

I think it's more like discovering new particles, than elements, with some sort of Enhanced Standard Model of Nobel Prizes probably being added to by the likes of supersymmetric partners, Higgses, etc. (But might be worth a mention that (pure) Mathematicians conspicuously miss out Nobel glory due to a deliberate oversight/snub? Not that I have skin in that game, but it's a known fact.) 08:29, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

This is probably also a jab at the "Nobel prize for Economics", which was awarded yesterday. That prize exists since the 1970s, but is often not regarded as a "real" Nobel prize because it was not specified in Alfred Nobel's will, but is rather the result of an outside donation. One could say it is a unrelated prize that is just cleverly marketed by smuggling Alfred Nobel's name into it and by awarding it one day after the "real" Nobel prizes. In that way, one could thoretically create a near infinite number of new "Nobel prizes" for irrelevant stuff, as the comic suggests. - 09:05, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

The Economics prize isn't unrelated. It's administered by the Nobel Foundation, and winners are chosen by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (which also chooses the winners for Physics and Chemistry). It's only the funding source that is different. Incidentally, the Nobel Foundation has decided that they will not allow any new exernally-funded prizes to be added after Economics. Ahecht (talk) 17:28, 13 October 2021 (UTC)

Could this be a riff on the AAAI Squirrel AI award given recently, which people are calling a "new Nobel"? https://pratt.duke.edu/about/news/rudin-squirrel-award --Sophira (talk) 10:49, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

It's pretty cmomon for the most prestigious award in some other field of study to be figuratively called the "Nobel of X". For instance, the Turing Award could be considered the Nobel Prize of computing. So I doubt this is a riff on any particular industry award, especially since it was published just after all the Nobel Awards were announced. Barmar (talk) 18:13, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

Swede here, on a little minor issue. As far as I know, Alfred Nobel was never knighted, so he should not be called Sir, which he currently is in the text.

I added an explanation for the title text as there was none previously. I feel like someone else could've explained it much better that I could, however.MrYellow04 (talk) 17:33, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

Today is the 42nd anniversary of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so it is possible Randall is referencing him with the name of Dr. Adams. 18:48, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

Actually, Hitchhiker started in March 1978 so it can hardly be the 42nd anniversary. 07:38, 14 October 2021 (UTC)

It may be worth noting that Dr. Adams is a social psychologist and the world's top expert on impostor syndrome. Kpalion 10:59, 13 October 2021 (UTC)

Oh man, you're right. And she's also frequently depicted wearing a lab coat in the role of a medical doctor. I know there's a lot of precedent in this wiki for calling her Ponytail, but I'm wondering if "Dr. Adams" could theoretically be used whenever she appears, as we do with Megan. --mezimm 13:29, 13 October 2021 (UTC)
Wow, that could be right! We'll probably need at least one more comic for evidence to be sure about referring to lab-coat ponytail as "Dr. Adams". Someone should look at that list of Doctor Ponytail comics and see if there's any other precedent for this. MrYellow04 (talk) 18:00, 13 October 2021 (UTC)
For my part (though there's no reason I'm correct on this) I think there's equal precedent in Cueball not being universally renamed as Rob. Even if Megan now seems to be always be accepted as Megan, I think that Dr (Joanna?) Adams still is only an identity of Ponytail. Maybe her future storyline will increasingly cement this reality, but it still might not indicate retroactive intentions upon all prior Ponytails. Keep "...featuring Ponytail" and "...featuring Dr. Adamas" as frequently co-present categories, or some similar setup. 19:57, 13 October 2021 (UTC)
I think there are two figures: Ponytail and Ponytail with lab coat. Ponytail with lab coat is always performing as a medical practitioner. Ponytail with out the lab coat takes on different roles. -- 06:03, 16 October 2021 (UTC)
I mean, this makes sense when you consider that many other characters appear to be Cueball with different clothing, but are treated as other characters completely. Like Black Hat etc. (Hats are clothing.) So a character interpreted as female with a lab coat and ponytail is Dr. Adams, while a character with a ponytail and no lab coat, interpreted to be female, is usually just Ponytail unless otherwise specified like here. 01:47, 26 November 2021 (UTC)