Posted by Sharon Schendel on May 12, 2019
At our April 18, 2019 meeting, Brian Keating, a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, spoke about his minor obsession with winning the Nobel Prize, and how he used the BICEP 2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) Telescope at the South Pole to gather data that might describe the seconds just after the Big Bang when the universe began to expand.  In 2014 Keating and his team thought they had the first indirect detection of these early gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background. Unfortunately, their discovery turned out to be contamination that was essentially dust in the Milky Way.
While dealing with the disappointment of learning that his finding was an artifact, Keating began to think about the nature of scientific awards, particularly the Nobel Prize. Using Buddha for inspiration, he came up with the Four Noble Truths about the Nobel, with the fourth truth being that “the way to overcome misery is through the eight-fold path”, which includes a correct view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.  Through his own introspection about his research and his drive for the Noble, Keating came to new realizations about his motivations for discovery.