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The insider's guide to the Nobel Prize

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(CNN) -- Dynamite and diplomacy. Everything you need to know about this year's Nobel prizes.

Dynamite? What happened to peace and literature? Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel's made his fortune by inventing dynamite. Keen to get a little less bang for his bucks, he bequeathed a fund to honor those whose efforts "conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." The annual awards --which are handed out this week -- are now presented to those who make a name in the fields of medicine, chemistry, physics, economics, literature and peace.

A sort of Oscars for the great and good? Thankfully there's no star-studded ceremony hosted by Billy Crystal or Chris Rock-- but you're on the right track. The winners, or laureates, are selected by venerable Swedish institutions from nominations made by academics around the world. The awards are usually made at a formal event in December which, attended by Scandinavian royalty, are a far cry from the Academy Awards. The winners get to present a series of lectures that probably come in shorter than most Oscar speeches.

So who'll win this year? Nobel committees keep their shortlists close to their chests, giving bookmakers plenty to speculate over. Few bother to guess the science winners, with the major focus resting on peace and literature.

Who's up for the Peace Prize? Names being bandied around include rock star Bob Geldof, Indian spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and pro-freedom Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Do. But the smart money is on Rebiya Kadeer, exiled leader of China's ethnic Uighur group and Finnish former president Martti Ahtisaari for negotiating an end to civil war in the tsunami-hit Indonesian province of Aceh. Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is also tipped for his role in ending the same conflict.

Bambang? Sounds a bit explosive. Indeed. As a former general who has served in brutal military campaigns, Yudhoyono would be a controversial choice, particularly as his country presses on with a widely-protested program of death sentences. But, since U.S. former secretary of state Colin Powell has also been mentioned, who knows?

And literature? Too many names to mention, but given that previous winners have included British bleak playwright Harold Pinter, fun-free South African author J.M. Coetzee and German magic realist Gunter Grass, the bar is set pretty high. Don't expect Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown to come romping home as a 100/1 outsider -- especially if the Nobel institute is in the grip of the Catholic church (which is probably the plot of Brown's next blockbuster).

Not many laughs then. No, but there is an antidote: The annual Ig Nobel awards -- parody prizes which are given annually at around the same time as the Nobels. Organized by the scientific humor journal "Annals of Improbable Research," they recognize people who have made dubious contributions to society, such as the Missouri man whose invention of prosthetic testicles for dogs won last year.


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Nobel laureates attend a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden.

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