go to content

What Happens When You Try To Bring Your Nobel Prize Through Airport Security

"Who gave this to you?" "The King of Sweden."

Posted on

After astrophysicist Brian Schmidt won the 2011 Nobel Physics Prize for co-discovering that the expansion of the universe was accelerating, he said his life changed 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.'"

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

Australian astrophycisist Brian Schmidt (left) receives the Nobel Prize for Physics from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Swedenon Dec. 10, 2011 in Stockholm, Sweden.

At an event in New York City last month celebrating the construction of Chile's Giant Magellan Telescope observatory, opening in 2020, Schmidt told a funny story about travel woes his medal caused him.

When I won this, my grandma, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota, wanted to see it. I was coming around so I decided I'd bring my Nobel Prize. You would think that carrying around a Nobel Prize would be uneventful, and it was uneventful, until I tried to leave Fargo with it, and went through the X-ray machine. I could see they were puzzled. It was in my laptop bag. It's made of gold, so it absorbs all the X-rays—it's completely black. And they had never seen anything completely black.

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?'

Nobel Prize winners: They're just like us! (Finding travel miserable.)

h/t Scientific American, @pourmecoffee

Rachel Zarrell is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Rachel Zarrell at rachel.zarrell@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.