Friday, October 30, 2009

Is there a Nobel Prize for competitive eating?

Q: So, the Fields Medal is widely considered to be like a Nobel Prize, but for math. Is there a Nobel Prize equivalent for competitive eating?

A: Sadly, no. I wish I could call the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest the Nobel Prize of competitive eating, but as it's a direct competition, the analogy that most people favor is "the Super Bowl of competitive eating." And that's really a better way of describing it. If the Nobel Prize for Physics, for example, were awarded after a head-to-head battle between internationally renowned researchers for how many particles they could discover in a set amount of time, there might be more of a comparison to make. Anyway, take a look at these other awards that claim to be the Nobel Prizes of their particular fields. Some are more Nobel Prizey than others.
Nobelishness (0-5 sticks of dynamite)
Fields Medal
This is the gold standard of Nobel Prizes that aren't Nobel Prizes. The field of Mathematics is a glaring omission in the Nobel Prize categories, and the Fields Medal has long been regarded as an adequate substitute, despite being neither annual nor Scandinavian.
Abel Prize
Newer than the Fields Medal, and perhaps not quite as prestigious, but quite similar to the Nobel Prize: Scandinavian, annual, and with a big cash award.
Turing Award
Far and away the most important prize in its field.
Pritzker Prize
Charles Stark Draper Prize
Annual, prestigious, big, international, and signified by a round medal with a guy's face on it. This is the real deal. The National Academy of Engineering awards two other big prizes on a regular basis, but they aren't quite as prestigious.
World Food Prize
A prestigious prize in an important category; preventing starvation is akin to the Peace Prize's mission of preventing war.
Prix Galien
The International Award is kind of like the Nobel Prize; the regional awards, which companies like to refer to as Nobel Prizes in Pharmaceuticals in their press releases, not so much.
Applied Research
R&D 100
As the name implies, there are 100 of these awarded every year. These seem more like the Oscars of research and development.
Child Development
Kellogg's Child Development Award
This comparison pops up in press releases, but . . . no. Not even close. 52 awards in 11 years, for one thing. Also: the awards page has a picture of the Raisin Bran sun on it. This is a red flag.
Energy . . . Stuff
Global Energy International Prize
Despite having both "Global" and "International" in its name, this is a prize sponsored by Russian oil and natural gas companies and invariably awarded to Russian scientists and their collaborators. Come on, Gazprom.
International Manga Award
This is an award by Japan's Foreign Ministry to encourage manga artists from other countries. It's a nice gesture, but the only guy making this comparison is Japan's Foreign Minister. And that's as it should be.
Shingo Award
Pfeh. Again with the multiple recipients.
Beacon Prize
This is a UK-only award with multiple recipients across multiple categories.
Web . . . Things
World Summit Awards
Biennial. Multiple winners in multiple categories. Blergh.
Earth Sciences
Vetlesen Prize
I'm torn. On the one hand, it's prestigious, has a long pedigree, and features a big, fancy medal. On the other hand, it's awarded on a very irregular basis, and nobody agrees on whether to call the category "earth sciences," "geology," or "geophysics."
Potamkin Prize
This is definitely prestigious, but it's called "the Nobel Prize of neurology," "the Nobel Prize for Alzheimer's research," and "the Nobel Prize of dementia research" - it would sound a lot more convincing if it were consistently associated with the larger field. Plus, there's already a thing awarded annually in Sweden for advances in medicine - you may have heard of it.
Classical Music
Birgit Nilsson Prize
Sweden? Check. One million dollars? Check. Even though this award is brand new and won't be awarded every year, I'm going to call this a valid comparison.
DIY Projects
Backyard Geniuses Award
Okay, so there's no comparison to be made here, but who doesn't love an award that goes to a giant mechanical claw? Quote: "This democratizes the crushing power."
Small Business Research
International Award for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Research
Dubiousness: high. It's geographically similar, being an international prize awarded in Sweden, but it's $50,000 and this crummy statuette.
Spiritual Whatnot
Templeton Prize
It certainly is lucrative: one million pounds. And it is prestigious, international, and annual. The prize's one failing is the vagueness of its purpose: "affirming life's spiritual dimension." This has led to the Templeton Prize being awarded to ethicists, charity workers, and theoretical physicists, among others - deserving recipients, but strange bedfellows. Tough call. I'll say it's legitimate.
Children's Drawings
Egyptian Early Innovation Award
D'awwwww. The sponsor of this award made the comparison to a Nobel Prize because he loves it so much. Awwww! And it is an international prize based on merit in a specific field. At 500 Euros and with no name recognition, though, this is a lot closer to that thing where your crayon drawing ends up in the kids' section of the local newspaper.

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