Speculation abounds ahead of annual Nobel Prize announcements

STOCKHOLM, Lennart Simonsson (dpa) Potential winners of the 2017 Nobel Prizes include a team of researchers involved in the discovery of gravitational waves, while the negotiators behind the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been tipped as contenders for the Peace Prize.
The detection of gravitational waves, described as ripples in the fabric of space-time, marked the culmination of several decades of scientific collaboration. Now, the discovery could be honoured with the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The waves were identified and measured in 2016 by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), located at opposite ends of the United States, and their discovery was seen as heralding a "new era in astronomy."
Albert Einstein – winner of the 1921 Physics Prize – put forth their existence in theory in 1916, and the 1993 Physics Prize was awarded for showing it would be possible to measure them.
The Nobel award calendar opens Monday with the medicine or physiology prize, and will be followed by the prizes for physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday and economics on October 9.
Betting is also under way for the Peace Prize, which will be announced on October 6 in Norwegian capital Oslo.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee received 318 nominations for the peace prize this year, the second-highest tally since it was first awarded in 1901.
Nominees include The White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group in Syria.
The Committee also advises nominators not to reveal their proposals, and keeps a 50-year seal on the names.
Tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear programme could come into play in the selection of this year's peace prize, several researchers said.
The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, through which Tehran agreed to undergo inspections and refrain from developing nuclear weapons, topped a shortlist compiled by Henrik Urdal, who recently took over as director of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo.
"It is important that North Korea sees that the agreement with Iran is now being honoured by the international community," he told dpa.
Urdal also mentioned the UN refugee agency UNHCR and its head Filippo Grandi for assisting and giving "a voice" to the world's 65 million refugees. The UN agency is a two-time winner.
Urdal's list included Turkish daily Cumhuriyet and its former editor Can Dundar, who have been at the forefront of Turkey's struggle for a free press.
Norwegian historian Asle Sveen, who has specialized in the history of the Peace Prize, said that awarding it to the Iran nuclear deal "would make it much more difficult for the US to pull out of it," referring to President Donald Trump's strong criticism of the agreement.
Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said "it would be very appropriate if the prize goes to a group or individual who has focused on achieving nuclear disarmament or, at least, preventing nuclear weapons proliferation."
Mats Karlsson, director of the Swedish Institute of Internationl Affairs, told dpa he hoped the award would go to ECOWAS - Economic Community of West African States.
ECOWAS played a "key role" in Gambia this year, Karlsson said, adding that "you could have had a war, but instead we had peaceful transition."
A date for the Literature Prize has not been announced. In 2016, the Swedish Academy surprised many with its pick of US singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o tops several online betting sites this year, in front of Haruki Murakami of Japan and Margaret Atwood of Canada.
Stefan Helgesson, professor of English at Stockholm University, said the academy "makes of a point of being completely unpredictable," but noted its work is also determined by who has been nominated.
During the summer recess the academy has considered five names whittled down from 195 nominations.
If an African author were chosen this year, wa Thiong'o is the most likely pick, Helgesson told dpa. Other African authors who could be in the running were Nuruddin Farah of Somalia and Mia Couto of Mozambique.
Mikael van Reis, a former culture editor of the Goteborgs-Posten newspaper, believes the academy will pick a European author, noting Botho Strauss of Germany or Peter Handke of Austria. His personal favourite is Peter Nadas of Hungary.
Publisher Svante Weyler concurred that the academy would opt for a "classic choice' after choosing Dylan, and Belarusian author and investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich in 2015.

Thursday, September 28th 2017
Lennart Simonsson

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