U.S. Auction Theorists Win the 2020 Nobel in Economics


Mr. Milgrom and Mr. Wilson came up with a new format that allowed the simultaneous auctioning of the many geographic areas of the radio spectrum across various bidders, starting with low prices and allowing repeated bids. The F.C.C. adopted the approach in 1994, and found that it allowed them to dole out the radio space while also raising far more money.

The Milgrom and Wilson approach met with such success that many other countries, including Britain, Canada, and Spain, went on to adopt it.

The economists “started out with fundamental theory and later used their results in practical applications, which have spread globally,” Peter Fredriksson, chairman of the prize committee, said in a release accompanying the announcement. “Their discoveries are of great benefit to society.”

Auction theory can have even broader application, the winners said during a Stanford news conference on Monday. Mr. Wilson cited his work on diamond pricing, among other examples, while Mr. Milgrom pointed to the challenge in allocating respirators early in the pandemic crisis. He said that the bottleneck, which forced states to chaotically bid against one another without expanding the supply of ventilators, illustrated how market design matters.

“We need well-thought out systems, and part of what we do in market design is try to think about all of the aspects of systems — competition, distribution, solving hard complex problems,” Mr. Milgrom said during a news conference held by Stanford.

Mr. Wilson was born in 1937 in Geneva, Neb., earned both his bachelor’s and graduate degrees from Harvard University, and he is now a professor emeritus at Stanford University.

Mr. Milgrom was born in 1948 in Detroit. He completed his bachelor’s at the University of Michigan and his graduate education at Stanford, where he received a doctorate in 1979 and where

Theorists show how random processes cancel out to ensure microbial health — ScienceDaily


Fat bacteria? Skinny bacteria? From our perspective on high, they all seem to be about the same size. In fact, they are.

Precisely why has been an open question, according to Rice University chemist Anatoly Kolomeisky, who now has a theory.

A primal mechanism in bacteria that keeps them in their personal Goldilocks zones — that is, just right — appears to depend on two random means of regulation, growth and division, that cancel each other out. The same mechanism may give researchers a new perspective on disease, including cancer.

The “minimal model” by Kolomeisky, Rice postdoctoral researcher and lead author Hamid Teimouri and Rupsha Mukherjee, a former research assistant at Rice now at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, appears in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

“Everywhere we see bacteria, they more or less have the same sizes and shapes,” Kolomeisky said. “It’s the same for the cells in our tissues. This is a signature of homeostasis, where a system tries to have physiological parameters that are almost the same, like body temperature or our blood pressure or the sugar level in our blood.

“Nature likes to have these parameters in a very narrow range so that living systems can work the most efficiently,” he said. “Deviations from these parameters are a signature of disease.”

Bacteria are models of homeostasis, sticking to a narrow distribution of sizes and shape. “But the explanations we have so far are not good,” Kolomeisky said. “As we know, science does not like magic. But something like magic — thresholds — is proposed to explain it.”

For bacteria, he said, there is no threshold. “Essentially, there’s no need for one,” he said. “There are a lot of underlying biochemical processes, but they can be roughly divided into two stochastic