When the Nobel Prize sets off a security alert


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As the nine scientists who became new Nobel Prize-winners this week wait to collect their rewards at the December ceremony in Stockholm, a former laureate, astrophysicist Brian Schmidt, who won the 2011 Nobel Physics Prize for co-discovering dark energy, explains what it is like to win such high-profile recognition, as reported in Scientific American.
“Your life does change overnight... It’s not like you get advanced warning, they just sort of call you up, in my case, in the middle of cooking dinner. ‘Hello? By the way, you’ve won the Nobel Prize.’”

Schmidt, a contributor to Cosmos from time to time, also has a funny anecdote about carrying the medal to Fargo in North Dakota so his grandmother could see it. Security at the airport was non-plussed when it showed up on their X-ray machine.

“They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’
I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’
They said, ‘What’s in the box?’
I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.
So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’
I said, ‘gold.’
And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’
‘The King of Sweden.’
‘Why did he give this to you?’
‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’
At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”

Cosmos will next week begin publishing a discussion of the work of the winners of the 2014 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Physics and Physiology or Medicine.

Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner won the chemistry prize for improving the microscope; Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura won the physics award for inventing blue light-emitting diode (LED) lights; and John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser won the medicine prize for discovering cells that make up the brain’s navigational system.

  1. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2014/10/10/nobel-prize-airport-security/
  2. https://beta.cosmosmagazine.com/brian-schmidt
  3. http://blog.cosmosmagazine.com/blog/2014/10/10/jyn30ffi91rmhy7gloefkwxihtormt
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