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Nobel Prize Befuddles TSA


Nobel Prize winner Brian Schmidt claims he was placed in the uncomfortable position of having to explain his gold medal while passing through airport security in North Dakota, but the TSA wasn’t buying his story.

Encounters with TSA officers can sometimes make for awkward conversations. It’s never fun to explain personal grooming appliances or medical devices stored in carry-on luggage to a stranger, but Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt was forced to provide answers when suspicion fell on the Nobel Prize for Physics he was taking to show his grandmother.

Schmidt told the story of his run-in with the TSA at a conference in New York last month, and Scientific American published parts of his speech on Friday.

Schmidt, who resides in Australia, explained how he ended up at Hector International Airport (FAR) with a half-pound gold medal in his duffle bag. “When I won this, my grandma, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota, wanted to see it,” he explained. “I was coming around so I decided I’d bring my Nobel Prize.”

FAR TSA officers became suspicious of the disc in Schmidt’s luggage after it showed up as a void on the X-ray machine. According to Schmidt, TSA officers inquired about the medal, asking, “What’s in the Box?”

Schmidt said he answered truthfully, stating, “A large gold medal.”

The TSA officers then asked who gave him the large gold medal, and Schmidt said he replied with: “The King of Sweden.” Although Schmidt’s response was factually correct, it was not the answer the officers seemed to expect and, according to Schmidt’s retelling of the encounter, they began to “lose their sense of humor.”

When officers asked why the King of Sweden gave him a medal made of gold, Schmidt said he shed a little more light on the subject, explaining, “Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.”

Seeing that the TSA officers were not amused by his answers, Schmidt said he then explained the exact nature of the Nobel Prize.

[Photo: The Telegraph]

Comments are Closed.
pogopossum October 15, 2014

Straightforward responses with no shades of language, and probably monosyllabic, is the best way to respond to any pseudo-law enforcement official, and most regular law enforcement officials. This is not to degrade the intelligence of the official, but it keeps things clear. Subtlety is not allowed (wag of finger). However, how could the TSA people not be aware of what is the single most famous international prize in the world? Cheers, Pogopossum

robsaw October 15, 2014

Yes being factual and direct with the typical unsophisticated and less than highly-informed or educated TSA "officer" is good personal policy. No, he doesn't "deserve" hassle because of TSA ignorance.

vtmaa October 14, 2014

I am no fan of TSA but I wonder if his experience would have been any better if he just said "It is a Nobel Prize medal that was awarded to me" or something more direct as to what the object was. Frankly the quoted response from Schmidt sounds more smarta$$ to me than otherwise. if this was the case, I say he deserved it. I am very conscious of not making jokes or smart remarks when I am dealing with TSA (or its equivalent in other countries), Immigration or customs. Be factual, let them do their job and lets move on.

LostInAmerica October 14, 2014

Unfortunately it doesn't take much to befuddle TSA.

SFO-DEN-ISN October 14, 2014