FACT: Answering a question in this week’s Business Week about several recent high-profile departures of Google executives and engineers, CEO Eric Schmidt said: “What bothers me is that some people write: ‘So-and-so left the company.’ Well, they don’t also write that we hired 120 people that week, five of whom have Nobel prizes, three of whom have PhDs, and so on, who are beginning their career here now.”
ANALYSIS: There have only been some 700 Nobel Laureates awarded in the history of the program since 1901, according to the official Nobel site, and at least as of a 2001survey there were approximately 210 living Nobel prize-winners.
So, with some trepidation, I calculate that by Schmidt’s aggressive hiring of five Nobel laureates in a typical week, the entire roster of living prize-winners will be working for Google within a year.
The end may come sooner – it is difficult to estimate exactly how many Nobelers are already toiling away in Mountain View on Google Research projects like Goog411 and “Offline Ad Slot Scheduling.” I tried to find out by performing this search but came up empty.
This suspicious blank slate can only mean that Google is hiding the constantly-arriving phalanx of Nobelians at the Googleplex. Some organizations, understandably, make it easy to identify exactly how many Nobel laureates they boast currently or over time; Harvard University, for example, has a page on its ten faculty member winners who have won the Nobel Prize for Physics ranging from Percy W. Bridgeman in 1946, right up to Roy J. Glauber in 2005 “”for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence.” Microsoft, by the way, mentions no Nobel Prize winners on its own research site, though there’s a list of other awards.
Graying Google: One artifact of this new hiring strategy for Google, since the median age of all living Nobel laureates is by one estimate around 72 years old, is to expect that the Jamba Juice and Segway culture of the Googleplex will subtly shift more to Metamucil and “quiet time.” This even though according to Schmidt, those five Nobelisks in the normal week are just “beginning their careers here.”
Fun fact: Doubtless relying on research performed by his Nobelites, Schmidt also showed an interesting grasp of economics in the Business Week interview, for example saying “A hot product will sell just as well in a recession as it will in a nonrecession.”
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