What It's Like to Win the Nobel Prize

Question: What was your reaction when you learned you won the \r\nNobel Prize?

\r\nWilliam Phillips: Well, my reaction to hearing about the Nobel Prize\r\n was one of shock and disbelief.  In fact, I can remember very, very \r\nwell when this happened.  I was attending a meeting in California; a \r\nmeeting of the American Physical Society and Optical Society of America \r\nmeeting jointly out in California, Long Beach, California.  And the day \r\nbefore the prizes were announced, a number of us were sitting around \r\nafter the scientific sessions were over speculating about who was going \r\nto get the Nobel Prize that year.  And believe me, nobody brought up my \r\nname.  So, later that night... well it was the middle of the night that I\r\n got a call I my hotel room to the effect that I had shared the Nobel \r\nPrize with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and Steve Chu, came as a complete \r\nshock.
\r\nQuestion: How did your life change after that?

William Phillips: My life changed dramatically.  It’s very difficult\r\n for me to keep up with all of the invitations that I get to speak about\r\n my work, the size of my research group has grown and that’s made it \r\npossible for me to be involved in more and more new kinds of physics, \r\nbut it’s made it harder and harder for me to be in intimately familiar \r\nwith all the things that are going on.  So, there’s a kind of a tension \r\nbetween the joy of doing lots of new things and the desire to understand\r\n them better and better. 
\r\nAnother thing that I never would have imagined would have been one of \r\nthe results of become a Nobel Laureate is that I ended up meeting people\r\n who are actually famous.  So, you know, people say, you’re a Nobel \r\nLaureate, you must be famous.  No, nobody remembers you know, outside of\r\n the field in which you’re working, nobody remember who won the Nobel \r\nPrize even a couple of years ago.  But as a result of being a Nobel \r\nLaureate, I get invited to things where I’ve met people who are actually\r\n famous.
\r\nOne of the people that I have met who has been most charming is Dr. Ruth\r\n Westheimer.  She lives in New York City, and I see her, probably about \r\nonce a year, and she’s just a wonderfully warm and genuine person.  Just\r\n a joy to know as a friend.

Recorded on June 4, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Become a Nobel laureate means you end up "meeting people who are actually famous."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’

Even some teachers suffer from anxiety about math.

Image credit: Getty Images
Mind & Brain

I teach people how to teach math, and I've been working in this field for 30 years. Across those decades, I've met many people who suffer from varying degrees of math trauma – a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics.

Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

How KGB founder Iron Felix justified terror and mass executions

The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.

Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
  • The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
  • The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
Keep reading Show less