There has always been something majestic about the Nobel Prize. It speaks to the best of mankind, even when it is controversial, and even when it is incomprehensible. The controversies that sometimes swirl around it are actually a testament to its lingering and persuasive importance: we feel like it has to mean something. And, generally, it does.
The Nobel Prize in Literature stirs our imagination by rewarding those who have delivered us our world re-imagined. The Nobel Peace Prize memorializes our ideals, generally recognizing those who see our world and say: this could be better. But of all the awards given by dynamite heirs, the one that thrills the world the most is the Nobel Prize in Physics. The names of winners on their own – Einstein, Bohr, Gell-Mann, Plank, Higgs – are shorthand for brilliance. These are people who see the world and say: there’s more.
This is why this year’s winner, announced Monday, seem almost like a weird letdown. The three winners, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura, helped to pioneer Blue LED lights, which make energy-efficient lights possible on a wide scale. At first glance, this pales in comparison to the infinitesimal but infinite grandeur of the Higgs-Boson, but it shouldn’t. The Blue LED light has the potential to change our world, to reduce our dependence on energy, and to have far more of an impact on how we live our lives than a God Particle ever could. Not only that, but it offers an avenue for an owner/operator of a multi-dwelling unit to get ahead of the curve and attract new residents, drawn by its amazing power.