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Genius Cliques: Mapping out the Nobel Community | by Milan Janosov | Sep, 2023

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The community of Nobel laureates. Picture by the writer.
Towards Data Science

This piece was initially revealed within the second concern of Nightingale, the printed journal of the Information Visualization Society.

Though I obtained my Ph.D. in Community and Information Science, I’ve all the time stayed near my roots, particularly in Physics, at any time when in search of inspiration. Rising up in Hungary, I used to be notably amazed by the achievements of “The Martians,” a gaggle of famend scientists who emigrated from Hungary to the US round World Conflict II. Curiously, a few of them even went to the identical highschool.

The Martians included, as an example, Leó Szilárd, who not solely found the idea of nuclear chain response but in addition co-patented the fridge with Albert Einstein and Eugene Wigner–a key scientist on the Manhattan Mission–main the event of the primary nuclear reactor. For his contributions, Wigner acquired the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963, numbering among the many 18 Nobel Prizes which were linked to thinkers with Hungarian origins.

These 18 prizes solely measure about three % of all of the Nobel Prizes ever awarded. In truth, since 1901, about 600 prizes have gone to considerably lower than a thousand laureates within the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Drugs, Literature, Peace, and–beginning in 1969–Economics. The positioning NobelPrize.org highlights different thrilling statistics in regards to the prize and its awardees: from the youngest (17 years outdated) and oldest (97) laureates to multiple-prize winners resembling John Bardeen (Physics, 1956 and 1972), Linus Pauling (Chemistry 1954, Peace 1962), and Marie Skłodowska-Curie (Physics 1903, Chemistry 1911).

The Curie household dominated the Nobel. Marie Curie first shared a prize together with her husband, Pierre, and later acquired a second award. Moreover, the mighty couple produced a Nobel-winning inheritor. Their daughter, Irène Curie, who shared the popularity together with her husband, Frédéric Joliot, was awarded the prize within the subject of Chemistry in 1935. Marie Curie was a member of one other fabulous instance of the interlinked small world of laureates (sadly, Pierre handed away in 1906): the Solvay Convention on Physics in 1911. It was in all probability essentially the most spectacular line-up in science ever: 27 of the 29 individuals had both already gained, or later acquired, the Nobel Prize.

The tales of the Martians, the Curie household, the Manhattan Mission, and the Solvay Convention all counsel that, behind the scenes, some critically intertwined social networks are at work amongst Nobel laureates. To hint this community, I went to essentially the most extensively used on-line encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and picked up the Wiki web page textual content of every laureate.

Then, in every laureate’s web page textual content, I counted the mentions of all the opposite names, noting whether or not any pairings shared a typical historical past noteworthy for Wikipedia. This manner, I constructed a community of 682 nodes and 588 hyperlinks, the place nodes correspond to laureates, and the energy of the hyperlink between two nodes is proportional to the variety of instances their Wiki websites reference one another. Moreover, I downloaded the whole view rely of every laureate’s web page and set their community node dimension proportional to the logarithm of that quantity. This node scaling ultimately highlighted those who have develop into family names. To finalize the community visualization, I utilized colour coding that corresponds to the scientific disciplines. You might discover the lead to Determine 1.

Determine 1. Nobel Community. The community of Nobel laureates with a minimum of one connection, based mostly on the cross-references between their Wikipedia pages. Every node corresponds to a laurate, edge widths measure the variety of cross references, and node dimension is proportional to the whole view rely of their Wiki pages. Shade encodes the disciplines they had been awarded (within the case of a number of completely different awards, a colour was picked at random from the awarded disciplines). Nodes with the best view counts are labeled.

To me, as a community scientist, the primary and most putting statement in regards to the community is its core-periphery separation: a big, linked element within the middle (a so-called big element) which accommodates greater than 30 % of the nodes, and a fragmented ring round it with smaller community elements, with sizes as much as ten nodes. Probably the most frequent element sizes are as few as two and three nodes, which aligns effectively with the truth that the Nobel Prize may be shared amongst a most of three laureates, and shared prizes have gotten increasingly frequent within the majority of fields.

I additionally realized that nodes within the big element are bigger, which means considerably greater visibility and a better variety of search hits for these laureates, as measured by logarithm of their Wiki view counts. After trying into the information, it seems that the median Wiki-view rely is 351,005 within the central element, whereas solely 170,510 for the outer ring, and the common view rely worth is about 2.5 instances greater for the central element than for the outer ring. So it appears, the central clique is far more well-liked!

However who’re they? The coloring with the green-yellowish shades versus reddish tones is supposed to differentiate sciences from humanities, coinciding with the left and proper sides of the enormous element. These sides are linked by Sir James Chadwick, who gained the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics for locating the neutron and who additionally turned a scientific advisor to the United Nations. The science facet (Determine 2a), headlining researchers like Albert Einstein and Max Planck, appears to have a robust root within the Prussian Academy of Sciences (1700–1945) and can also be sturdy amongst the founders of contemporary Physics, from the Curies to Enrico Fermi and Eugene Wigner or György Hevesy (each with Hungarian and Martian roots).

Determine 2a. Zoom-in of Determine 1, specializing in the clique in sciences.

On the humanities facet (Determine 2b), we will see some fairly well-liked figures. Apparently, science is just not the best way to world fame! There are instantly two central laureate organizations that strike the attention: the European Union and the United Nations, each awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. Notable people embody distinguished politicians, resembling Barack Obama or Henry Kissinger, the human rights activist Nelson Mandela, and the economist Milton Friedman (with Hungarian, however non-Martian, roots).

As for the outer elements, there are a couple of famously social people, resembling Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Richard Feynman — personally, my favourite Nobel laureate for each his scientific contribution and his playful and eccentric character. These people, regardless of dwelling busy lives, are considerably remoted from the community, doubtless as a result of time and geographical places of their lively years in comparison with different laureates. Moreover, the information could also be incomplete right here as Wikipedia is neither excellent nor one hundred pc correct in documenting social connections, and sadly (or not?), Fb didn’t exist at the moment.

Lastly, the Hungarians and the Martians: trying on the knowledge, it seems that lots of them should not linked to even a single Nobel laureate, and those that are members of the community are merely scattered round. The explanations behind this are unclear — possibly the legend of the Martians is overrated, or possibly there weren’t sufficient of them awarded a Nobel to seem within the community visibility. One factor is for certain, although: the Manhattan Mission counted seven Nobel laureates whereas it was operational and, later, a dozen extra, however amongst them solely Wigner was from the Martians.

Determine 2b. Zoom-in of Determine 1, specializing in the clique in humanities.

As inspirational as it’s to scan all these names and connections in The Nobel Community, and regardless of the way it makes me really really feel as if I’m “standing on the shoulders of giants,” the community has its flaws. Moreover the peripheral Japanese Europeans, we see an elite membership rising within the middle with nearly all of well-liked names clustered collectively within the big element, excluding two-thirds of the community. This implies that two-thirds of the laureates simply stroll away with the prize and return to their work, and solely the remaining third interact in seen connections, be it friendships or collaborations. As “The entire is bigger than the sum of the elements,” lacking greater than 60 % of these sensible minds from the central stream of concepts appears a pity.

Much more missed alternatives come up. The central element itself is cut up into two camps: science and humanities. This polarization very a lot goes in opposition to immediately’s most important course, interdisciplinary analysis, which supplies us the facility to deal with main societal issues by no means skilled earlier than. Moreover, the community reveals the low variety of feminine laureates. Regardless of the distinctive historical past of Marie Curie, solely about six % of laureates had been feminine, most of whom had been awarded the Peace Prize (16.5 % of 109 awarded) and the least of whom earned awards in Physics (1.8 % of 219 awarded).

Nonetheless, all is just not misplaced. Mapping workout routines like this one can assist reveal these points, which in any other case are barely seen, even to essentially the most avid Nobel followers. Zooming out and using community science can spotlight in any other case hidden patterns and allow understanding, which is step one in figuring out future options, be it about gender gaps or elitist cliques.



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