A Pakistani teenage activist shot by the Taliban and a Japanese author who writes about alienation and a fractured modern world are tipped as Nobel Prize winners ahead of the annual awards that start today.
Malala Yousafzai, 16, shot in the head by the Taliban last year for demanding education for girls, gave a speech at the UN in July saying she would not bow to “terrorists” who thought they could silence her. She is a favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize among experts and betting agencies, but one obstacle could be her age.
Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni human rights activist and youngest winner to date, was 32 when she received the prize and some experts argue the prize would overburden such a young woman. Yousufzai is living in London and still facing Taliban threats.
British bookmaker Ladbrokes has put Japanese author Haruki Murakami in pole position for the literature prize. Murakami is very popular in Japan and has also become well-known abroad.
His first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, was published in 1979, but Murakami first leaped to literary stardom in 1987 with Norwegian Wood, a bleak coming-of-age story dominated by grief and loss. Since then, his works have all been bestsellers.
Accolades in Stockholm will go also to medicine, physics, chemistry and economics, with the peace prize winner named on Friday.
Discussions on the prizes are wrapped in secrecy. The 18 members of the Swedish Academy who award the prize for literature are only allowed to discuss the prize within the walls of the Academy. Minutes are only made public 50 years after the meetings. It is extremely rare for the name of any winner to leak out, although 2010 was an exception when Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet got a tip that test-tube baby pioneer Robert Edwards had won the award for medicine.
The annual prizes created in the will of dynamite tycoon Alfred Nobel were cut by 20 percent to 8 million krona (US$1.2 million) last year as returns on its US$450 million fund fell amid years of global financial downturn.
Scientists who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson — the mysterious particle that explains why elementary matter has mass — are Thomson Reuters’ top tips to win the physics prize.
The two possible winners are Britain’s Peter Higgs — after whom the particle was named — and Belgian theoretical physicist Francois Englert, according to Thomson Reuters’ Nobel prediction expert David Pendlebury.
Potential winners for economics include Sam Peltzman and Richard Posner of the University of Chicago for their research on theories of regulation.
In medicine, those tipped include Brit Adrian Bird, Israeli-American Howard Cedar and Israeli Aharon Razin for work on DNA methylation, which helps determine how and when genes in the body are activated.
Among potential chemistry winners are US scientists MG Finn, Valery Fokin and Barry Sharpless for developing “click chemistry,” which has applications in diagnostics and in making surface coatings with unusual properties.