What happens when you take your Nobel Prize through airport security

Nobel Week is over, the five days when prizes are awarded in chemistry, literature, peace, physics and physiology or medicine.

It's said that laureates' lives change overnight, and that was certainly true of Brian Schmidt, the astrophysicist who won the Nobel Physics Prize in 2011 for co-discovering dark energy.

In a blog post on the Scientific American, Clara Moskowitz recalls Prof Schmidt saying: "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'."

Speaking last month in New York, Prof Schmidt said that relatively mundane things such as air travel were problematic for a Nobel laureate.

He said his grandmother, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota, wanted to see the actual Nobel Prize, a gold disc that resembles an Olympic medal.

"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," he said.

“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?’."

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