The Nobel prize for physics has been announced. This year half of it goes to Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Maskawa and the other half to Yoichiro Nambu; all particle physicists.
As always, there is a lot of controversy with this choice. When I first heard the recipients my first thought, and I suspect almost every particle physicist had the same thought, was: “Why Kobayashi and Maskawa and not Cabibbo?” The Kobayashi-Maskawa paper was, in many ways, a generalization of earlier work by Nicola Cabibbo. For some entertaining wild speculation about politics and motivation, see the comments on this post by Thomasio Dorigo.
My take is that this is one of the exceedingly difficult situations created by the rule that the prize can only be shared by three recipients. Nambu clearly deserves a Nobel prize, and good arguments can be made for all of Cabibbo, Kobayashi and Maskawa. On the other hand, the committee can’t give the prize to particle physics (or to any other branch of physics) every year. So, something weird and controversial has to happen.
Now, instead of directly explaining what the prizes were for, I’m going to slide into an Amusing Anecdote.