STOCKHOLM: Nobel season opens with speculation rife over fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden’s prospects for the peace prize and whether the first award announced on Monday—the medicine prize—could go to research into chili, heat and pain.
US physiologist David Julius has been touted by Sweden’s leading daily Dagens Nyheter to win the medicine prize for discovering that pain receptors have the same reaction to pain, temperature and the spicy component of chili.
“David Julius’s discoveries have given us a much deeper understanding of how feeling works and completely new possibilities to produce drugs against chronic pain,” Maria Gunther, science editor at the paper wrote.
While the Nobel week begins with three science prizes—including physics on Tuesday and chemistry on Wednesday, most of the speculation surround the coveted peace prize to be announced on Friday.
This year’s peace prize has drawn a record 278 nominations, including that for Snowden—whose name was put forward by two Norwegian lawmakers for his exposure of widespread US electronic surveillance.
Snowden analyst would be a controversial choice as “many continue to see him as a traitor and a criminal”, according to Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the peace research institute Oslo (PRIO), one of few analysts to publish a list of potential winners.
Nonetheless, the five members of the Nobel Committee could still give him the award to “underline the independence of the Nobel Committee” from the Norwegian and US authorities, according to Nobeliana.com, a website run by leading Norwegian Nobel historians.
Others have rubbished the Snowden speculation.
“Judging from the past, I can’t see that coming. It’s too controversial – and Scandinavians are too fond of the [United] States,” Robert Haardh, head of Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders told Agence France-Presse.
Pope Francis — topping bookmaker Paddy Power’s list with 9/4 odds — would be another controversial choice.
“Pope Francis has brought attention to the fate of the poor, and the need for a new approach to development and economic redistribution,” according to PRIO’s Harpviken.
But critics argue that a Nobel for the pope would cause a similar outcry to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Nobel—less than a year into his presidency—which drew complaints that he was awarded for potential good deeds in the future rather than anything he had achieved.