Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor

Norton. Apr. 2018. 352p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781324000914. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781324000921. SCI
What caused the Big Bang? Keating (astrophysics, Univ. of California, San Diego) sets out to discover the answer to this cosmological mystery. Following in the footsteps of Galileo, the author's childhood hero, Keating developed special refracting telescopes dubbed BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) and BICEP2 to collect data which he and his research group hoped would reveal the origins of the universe. During the course of the study, the author and his fellow scientists were derailed by the siren call of the prestigious Nobel Prize when they believed the telescope recorded incontrovertible proof of how the Big Bang began. Yet their Nobel dreams were dashed when a mix of starry-eyed hubris and fear of being scooped by competing experiments caused them to announce their findings prematurely and without having submitted their data for prior peer review. Part biography, part history of cosmology, Keating's engaging and accessible book also includes prescriptive essays on how the awarding of the Nobel Prize can be improved by focusing less on the competition and more on scientific inquiry, collaboration, and sharing credit among all who worked on a project.
VERDICT Science enthusiasts and scientists alike will enjoy delving into this exciting extragalactic drama.
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