There’s an interesting Editorial in Nature Photonics this month (November) about the 2009 Nobel prize for physics (Nat. Photon. 3, 605; 2009), won for two innovations in photonics that underpin society’s adoption of information technology. From the Editorial: “What is particularly interesting about this year’s choice of award is the strongly applied nature of the achievements and the prevalence of the technologies in today’s society. Indeed, this is probably one of the rare instances where many of those working outside science are likely to have both an immediate familiarity with the topics of the award and an appreciation of their usefulness. After all, in developed countries fibre-optic communications underpin phone networks and the internet, and digital cameras are now considered a ubiquitous item in many households.” The Nature Photonics editors are intrigued as to whether this year’s award will set a Nobel precedent for honouring practical applications of scientific research.