Brian Keating

Losing The Nobel Prize

Losing The Nobel Prize

The inside story of a quest to unlock one of cosmology’s biggest mysteries, derailed by the lure of the Nobel Prize. What would it have been like to be an eyewitness to the Big Bang? In 2014, astronomers wielding BICEP2, the most powerful cosmology telescope ever made, thought they’d glimpsed the spark that ignited the Big Bang. 

Millions around the world tuned in to the announcement, and Nobel whispers began to spread. But had these cosmologists truly read the cosmic prologue or, driven by ambition in pursuit of Nobel gold, had they been deceived by a galactic mirage? In Losing the Nobel Prize, cosmologist Brian Keating―who first conceived of the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) experiments―tells the inside story of BICEP2’s detection and the ensuing scientific drama. 

Along the way, Keating provocatively argues that the Nobel Prize actually hampers scientific progress by encouraging speed and competition while punishing inclusivity, collaboration, and bold innovation. To build on BICEP2’s efforts to reveal the cosmos’ ultimate secrets―indeed, to advance science itself―the Nobel Prize must be radically reformed.

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Selected as one of the Best/Favorite Science Books of the Year at Science FridayAmazonScience NewsPhysics TodayForbesSymmetry Magazine, and Starts with A Bang!


“Brian Keating's riveting new book tells the inside story of the search for cosmic origins, emphasizing the influence of Nobel dreams and laying bare the question of whether the lure of grand prizes is ultimately a good thing for science.”

Brian Greene Author of The Elegant Universe

A fascinating autobiographical account, full of intriguing detail, of the passions and inspirations that underlie the scientific quest to comprehend the nature and origins of our universe...A highly thoughtful and informative book

Sir Roger Author of The Emperor’s New Mind

Visionary Brian Keating takes us along on a refreshing and honest journey to see how great discoveries are made and unmade. This is one of the greatest stories told in cosmology. I couldn't put it down

Stephon Alexander Author of The Jazz of Physics

In this riveting personal account, Brian Keating writes frankly of his challenges, frustrations, and motivations during the years spent building and operating the instruments used to tackle one of the most fundamental problems in science: how our universe began.

Martin J. Rees Astronomer Royal and author of Universe

Part adventure story, part cautionary tale, Brian Keating’s <Losing the Nobel Prize is that rare thing among popular science books—a page-turner.

Rae Armantrout Author of Versed

Brian Keating describes the thrilling highs and dramatic lows that accompany the relentless pursuit of science’s top accolade. This is a personal, cautionary tale to which we should all listen

Peter H. Diamandis Chairman/founder, XPRIZE Foundation and Singularity University

Brian Keating's compulsively readable book shows us the human side of science: the passion, the competition, the jealousies, the mistakes, the triumphs, the heartbreaks. A first-hand account of how science happens at the very highest levels.

Sean Carroll Author of The Big Picture

Brian Keating is a wonderful storyteller with a very good story to tell. His tale is provocative and evocative as he takes us on a highly personal journey to the heart of the scientific exploration of the universe.

Lee Smolin Perimeter Institute, and author of Time Reborn

I loved this well-told tale of science, passion, and the pursuit—literally to the ends of the earth—of life’s purest questions. Brian Keating weaves together a must-read drama of big dreams, awe-inspiring technology, and a belief in the power of science to solve any puzzle. He is thoroughly modern and forward facing, questioning the veneration of the Nobel Prize, and making the case with his heartfelt story that the real prize is in the science itself.

Julian Guthrie Author of How to Make a Spaceship

Three fascinating tales entwine between these covers; a young man growing to scientific maturity, an elusive baby picture of our universe, and the prize he hoped that picture would garner. The story, enthralling as it is, remains unfinished.

Jill Tarter Bernard M. Oliver Chair, SETI Institute

Our most august institutions—government, billion-dollar corporations, and even staid academia—are rife with human politicking and raw ambition. In Losing the Nobel Prize, Brian Keating describes just some of that jockeying and maneuvering among the smartest people in the world, studying the most abstruse and fundamental knowledge, while chasing humanity's greatest honor. Along the way, Keating provides understandable explanations of the more mind-bending aspects of modern cosmology, and just what we know about our universe.

Antonio García Martínez Author of Chaos Monkeys

A fascinating blend of personal history and an honest behind-the-scenes look at high-stakes science. Brian Keating was at the origin of what appeared to be one of the most exciting discoveries in modern cosmology. His vivid storytelling brings humanity’s search for the origin of the Universe to life.

Jay Pasachoff Author of Peterson Field Guide to the Stars and Planets

Cosmologists had thought that they had glimpsed a distant image of the first moments of the universe. Instead, this image turned out to be ‘smudge on the window’: galactic dust once again bedeviling cosmologists. Keating conveys this exciting search through a personal tale of the ups and downs of cutting edge science.

David Spergel Professor, Princeton University, Co-Winner of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

In Losing the Nobel Prize, Brian Keating shares a view from the jagged frontiers of scientific exploration, offering fresh insights into the passions, ambitions, and competition that drive many researchers today. A fascinating journey.

David Kaiser Professor of physics and the history of science, MIT and author of How the Hippies Saved Physics

According to Brian Keating, the Oscar and Nobel science prizes have a lot in common. In Losing the Nobel Prize, he weaves together the Nobel Prize institution, his personal life, and his own involvement in modern cosmology into a multi-facetted and highly readable story. Providing a vivid picture of the adventurous and competitive world of cosmological research, he also suggests radical reforms to the venerable but perhaps outdated Stockholm institution.

Helge Kragh Emeritus Professor, Aarhus University and author of Cosmology & Controversy