"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Oct 8, 2010

Nobel Prizes by population size

BBC article compares the number of Nobel prizes won by countries. It is rubbish. The list they produced was;
1. US  323
2. UK  117
3 Germany 103
4 France 57
5 Sweden 28

The article suggests that this information produces "a definitive list of the nations with the biggest brains". Hmm.
It certainly produces a list showing which country generates the most Nobel prizes. It may even point to which country overall is producing the highest number of top scientists. But it doesn't in anyway allow us to compare the countries on a like for like basis because of the widely different populations of each country.

A fairer comparison would be to ask how many Nobel prizes each country produces on a per capita basis. This is a much better indicator of how well each country taps into the potential of it's population ( assuming that Nobel prizes actually measure that which is another issue of course.)

Comparing populations we get

1. US Pop 307M
2. Germany Pop 82M
3. France Pop 62M
4. UK Pop 61M
5. Sweden Pop 9M
( rounded figures )

Now we can calculate the number of Nobels awarded per Million head of population

1 Sweden  3.1 NpM
2 UK 1.92 NpM
3 Germany 1.26 NpM
4 US 1.05 NpM
5 France 0.92 NpM

What emerges is a very different picture. Sweden tops the list by a long way for the number of Nobel prizes per capita of population. One wonders if the origins of the Nobel prize are playing any influence here? Interestingly the UK has gained more Nobels per capita than the US which now trails in fourth place behind Germany.

This is still a very rough and ready approach of course. Population sizes are not static but it certainly gives a more accurate picture than the BBC one.

6 comments:

Delirious said...

I thought it interesting that in the news today it was reported that the nobel peace prize went to a dissident who is in prison in China. China is very upset...to say the least. At least they gave it to someone who actually did something; unlike Barack Obama who had only been in office a very short time and hadn't done anything to earn it.

Bunc said...

He's a brave man indeed. I was about to post about him.

Looney said...

Given that the awards started in 1901, we should also note that most of those brains are dead.

There is a lot we could do with a time based statistical analysis.

Bunc said...

These are of course pretty ropey statistics as I would be the first to admit, Looney. Even so they are better than the BBC's feeble attempt.

Bunc said...

It just struck me that an analysis of Nobel science winners by decade compared to science funding levels in each country by decade might be interesting and perhaps revealing.

There might be a lag between the two though even if there was a connection.

rummuser said...

Boohoo! We don't count on either scale because of the very few so far and our population!

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