Nobel for US economists for improvements to auction theory

Nobel Prize

"I woke up at ten after six, and I realised that they must have given the Prize in Chemistry, so I simply said, 'Okay, who's the schnook that got the prize this time?", Chalfie said in a conversation with a Nobel.org representative that the Nobel Committee posted online.

Milgrom said he received news of their win "in a unusual way".

Prof Wilson developed a theory for auctions where the value of the object on the block is uncertain beforehand but ends up being the same for everyone - for example, the value of radio frequencies, or the volume of a mineral in a particular area.

"We're really motivated to use theory in a very practical way to improve various economic processes", Wilson said. "Their discoveries are of great benefit to society", said Peter Fredriksson, chair of the prize committee. Their discoveries have benefitted sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world.

New auction formats have been used for radio spectra, fishing quotas, aircraft landing slots and emissions allowances.

This year's Laureates, Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, have studied how auctions work.

"(Bidders) are anxious about the winner's curse - that is, about paying too much and losing out", the committee said. "My wife points out that we bought skiboots on eBay - I guess that was an auction".

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The prize closes the 2020 Nobel season which so far has seen the peace prize awarded to the UN's World Food Programme.

Wilson told The Guardian that the internet has "profoundly" changed the way auctions are carried out, allowing them to be run on a continual basis by various enterprises.

Prof Milgrom put together a theory which takes into account not only auctions where the object turns out to have the same value for all the bidders, but also for auctions where the object is valued differently by different bidders. In practice, this was adopted by American authorities in 1994 as a method to sell radio frequencies to telecom operators.

The committee calls the winners before announcing the names to the world each year.

Last year's award went to two researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a third from Harvard University, for their groundbreaking research into efforts to reduce global poverty.

The 10-million-Swedish-crown (US$1.14 million) economics prize is not one of the original five awards created in the 1895 will of industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, but was established by Sweden's central bank and first awarded in 1969.

The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to American poet Louise Gluck 'for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal'.

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