Until they win, few Nobel laureates realise that the award ceremony is associated with an intense but exhausting week that thrusts them suddenly into the media spotlight, and requires a high level of energy and — unless they are teetotal — a reasonably tolerant liver. Neither would they anticipate the other accoutrements, including a chauffeur and a junior Swedish diplomat assigned as helper and advisor. Scientists, at least, don't normally live in a world of minders and personal limousines — certainly not one of celebrities. However, when the king confers that award, handing the winner a gold medal and a leather-bound certificate in an atmosphere of solemn dignity, he also bestows a kind of celebrity status that has its own rewards and limitations. The latter mainly involves the loss of personal and professional time that goes with public attention, but the compensations are the broader awareness of your work, gaining...

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