TSA Questions Scientist Trying to Bring His Nobel Prize Through Security

Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt brought his Nobel Prize to Fargo, North Dakota to show it to his grandmother. That was suspicious.

When Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt was asked at airport security if anyone had given him an item to carry on board, he had confess that someone had: the King of Sweden.

The astrophysicist, who won the Nobel in 2011, was stopped when his Prize medal made from $10,000 (£6,200) of gold caught the attention of staff from the US Transport Security Administration, whose agents are not known for their sense of humour.

…he described what happened next: “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 humour. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”

I have no doubt that someone who can figure out the expansion rate of the universe carries the Macguyver-like skills to do Really Bad Things if he were so inclined. I have to rule this one for the TSA.

As they say, a few bad apples who in no way undermine the hard work that thousands of men and women at the TSA do to keep us safe, day in and day out.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Several years ago I was travelling MUC-FRA-IAD and a freshly minted laureate was travelling ARN-FRA-IAD and US security at FRA was equally interested in the laureate’s medal.

    I guess you don’t put those in checked bags.

  2. Few years back TSA had stripped a Indian minister at the airport for security check, this was defense minister of the country in office

  3. It is a disgrace to the USA how stupid the TSA is. But we have developed a Billy Bad Ass law and order culture where we imprison the largest percentage of our population of any civilized country and have leaders not willing to tell these agents they have exceeded their station in life. Just think how our economy would hum if these munchkins would get out of the way.

  4. It would tickle my science bone if the TSA agents were starstruck with a Nobel laureate and wanted a little bit of extra interaction with him.

    However, I’m betting you wouldn’t recognize a Nobel laureate on the street yourself if you stepped on their toe.

  5. A few years ago I was transporting some silver and gold coins for my parents and going through airport security at DTW. The same thing happened in that my bag came up all black. I explained what was in the bag and they were very cool about it saying they had many people come through who went to coin shows. We went into a private room and I showed them the coins and was shortly on my way. They were more pleasant, but also probably more experienced than their counterparts in Fargo.

  6. Am I the only reason who is going to call “BS” on this? It sounds like a cute cocktail party story but that’s it.

    The question was simple – “Did anyone give you anything to carry on this flight?” The King of Sweden didn’t give anybody anything to carry on that flight. He gave it to keep. The recipient got it and it became his. HE chose to take it on the flight (and I don’t for a minute believe that he was flying from Stokholm directly to Fargo).

    All he had to say was “no” in answer to the question, then allow TSA to verify the dark image.

    Also – you can almost set your watch for it – notice the comments from people chiming in with TSA stories from “several years ago…” Give it a rest, already.

  7. I would like to clarify that when I said a few years ago, it was 2 years and 2 months ago – specifically 8/20/12 as I have now had the chance to check my calendar.

    I didn’t think that amount of specificity was necesary, but it obviously is as a general statement of “several years ago” is being derided.

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