Sunday, November 25, 2012

Who Won the 2012 Nobel Prizes? Part 3


Science for Writers Nobel prize
Welcome to the latest Science for Writers post. Last time we discussed the Nobel Prize winners in Medicine and Literature. In this post I will be discussing the Nobel Prizes in Peace and Economic Sciences.

I have put important words in bold. These words are important in science and I will refer to them throughout the post. It isn't overly important for you to know the exact meaning, so long as you get the gist of what I'm talking about you will be fine following this post.

Writing Links are in italics and these discuss how the science could be used in writing.



Peace

As these posts are more about science, I won't be spending too long on the Peace Prize, which this year went to the European Union that  'for over six decades [has] contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe'.

EU Countries
Image Courtesy of Euro-Dollar-Currency
World War II saw many deaths and truly highlighted the 'need for a new Europe'. Germany and France had been at war 3 times in the space of just seventy years, but now, thanks to the EU, the thought of the two being at war is 'unthinkable'.

The EU gained Greece, Spain and Portugal in the 198s which meant they all had to have a democracy. Having a democracy is one of the key requirements to joining the EU. When the Berlin Wall fell, EU membership became possible for many Central and Eastern European countries. This has been dubbed as the opening of a new era for the EU.

Next year Croatia will join the EU on the 1st of July 2013 and will be the 28th country to do so. In addition Montenegro and Serbia are both candidate countries with the potential of becoming members in the future. This is dais to be 'strengthening' reconciliation in the Balkans.



As everyone undoubtedly is aware, the EU has severe economic problems and it will be a great shame if money is the downfall of this great organisation that represents the 'fraternity between nations'.

Writing Link:  The EU is one of the greatest Peace organisations in the world. In many fantasy worlds nations are in turmoil and the solution is diplomacy and politics between nations. How could an EU-esque organisation impact your fantasy world?

More information can be found here. If you prefer video, this link has the prize announcement.

Economic Sciences

This year the prize went to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley 'for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design'.

Put in simpler terms this basically means Roth and Shapley have developed and used algorithms to match things together in a market and that these pairs are the best for both sides.

The best way to put it is thus:  two parties want conflicting things, and using these algorithms both parties get the best possible outcome and would gain nothing by changing what they get.

OK, that may have made it even less clear. Perhaps this image will help:


doctor hospital allocations
Doctor - Hospital Allocations
Image courtesy of  NobelPrize.org
In this image all the doctors want to work in hospital a and all the hospitals want doctor 1. Previously what would have happened is the hospitals would have made decisions over who they wanted and doctor 1 could have gone to any hospital leaving the remaining 2 hospitals with doctors they didn't want. Shapley's algorithm takes a kind of turn-based approach from the doctors side. Each doctor makes proposals to the hospitals which the hospitals then either provisionally accept or decline. In the example above all three doctors would propose to hospital a and hospital a provisionally accepts doctor 1. The doctors which were decline then make a second round of proposals. In this case doctor 2 proposes to hospital b and doctor 3 to hospital c. The algorithm then works out what the most stable arrangement is. A stable arrangement is one where neither party benefits from a switch. As you can see from the above diagram if doctor 2 moved he would be less happy and hospital b would lose out by having a doctor which preferred a different hospital.

What's interesting is that it doesn't matter if a candidate lies to change the outcome. That was a big a problem for the algorithm and Roth developed a revised version that was immune to this sort of manipulation. This led to the algorithm producing always stable results and therefore became useful in other areas including student-school , kidney-patient, and doctor couple-hospital matching.

Writing Link:  How does maths impact your characters and world? Could there be a potentially ultimate algorithm that can predict the future? What benefits/drawbacks would that have?

For more information visit this link for the basic overview of the prize or this link for the geeky explanation. If you prefer video, this link has the prize announcement.

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