I think it’s pretty obvious why you would want to win a Nobel Prize. For starters, you get a free trip to Stockholm. You also get to meet the King. That would be enough right there!
In addition, you get a totally outrageous dinner. This year’s menu hasn’t been released yet, but last year’s dinner was “duck galantine with apples, pumpkin, picked vegetables, and spicy jelly, followed by fried truffled turbot, winter salad with chanterelles and truffled oxtail gravy, and then milk chocolate and orange Bavarian cream, flavored with Gammeldansk Bitter and served with an orange salad.” I don’t even know what half of those things are, but it sounds impressive.
Oh, and one more thing. Did I mention the prize money? If you win a Nobel Prize, you don’t just get a medal and eternal glory—the Swedish Academy will also give you a small token of its collective appreciation of your work. This year, that small token is 10 million Swedish crowns, which is just shy of $1.5 million (about ₤950,000 or €1.1 million). If you share a Nobel Prize, though, you’ll be sharing the money, too.
And then there’s the magic. Just read what these laureates had to say about the ceremony.
In 1973, Economics laureate Wassily Leontief from St. Petersburg said, “As a small boy, I used to hear fairy tales about beautiful faraway lands, princesses and kings, splendid palaces on clear northern waters populated by white swans. Today one of these fairy tales came true; I am dining with the King and the Princesses in a golden hall, surrounded by the gracious ladies and gentlemen of their court.”
In 1991, Parisian Physics laureate Pierre-Gilles de Gennes said, “This is the first, and probably the last, time in my life where I have dinner with queens and princesses. I am worried. I suspect that with the chimes of midnight I will be turned into a pumpkin.”
I want a part of the magic, too! I wonder if glass slippers and a fairy godmother come as part of the package…
The thing is, it seems kind of hard to win a Nobel Prize. Years of research, personal sacrifice, perseverance—I’m not sure if I’m cut out to win one the old fashioned way. I did a little research, though, and I think I’ve worked out a few shortcuts.
For those of you who think that the journey is more valuable than the destination, you are all very admirable, lovely people. But you can stop reading here. For the rest of you, I’ve created The Slacker’s Guide to Winning a Nobel Prize. As Marva Collins said, “Success doesn’t come to you. You go to it.” No one ever said how much we had to move, though!
The first thing you have to do is choose which Nobel Prize you want to win. You have six choices: Physics, Chemistry, Economics, Physiology/Medicine, Literature, and Peace. While they all get the same amount of money, I will warn you that if you’re after a free trip to Sweden, the Peace Prize is not for you. I’m sure it’s very nice, but… it’s in Oslo, not Stockholm. Just so you know.
One way to narrow down your options might be to consider whether you have pre-existing talents in any of these subjects. If you hate numbers, you might want to go for Literature or Peace. If you feel drawn towards quantitative research like a moth toward a flame, then Physics, Chemistry, Economics, or Physiology/Medicine might be the prize to shoot for. Negative aptitude may also be a factor; if you struggle with anger management problems, for example, you might not be cut out for the Peace Prize.
If you’re not sure where your natural talents lie, then you can try to play the numbers. Since 1901, the most prizes have gone to laureates in Physiology/Medicine and Physics. Over the last decade alone, there have been 27 Physiology/Medicine laureates and 30 Chemistry laureates for a 2.7 and 3.0 laureates/year average, respectively. It’s like a Nobel Prize Potpourri over there.
The odds of winning a Literature or Peace prize, on the other hand, are not nearly as good. Nonetheless, women should take a close look at these two prizes and Physiology/Medicine. There have been 15 female Peace prize laureates, 12 female laureates in Literature, and 10 in Physiology/Medicine—far more than the 2 female laureates in Physics, 4 in Chemistry, and (for shame!) 1 in Economics.
On one hand, these numbers might reflect the Academy’s openness to female contributions in the first three prizes; on the other hand, they might show where there’s an opening for trailblazers in the latter three. Tricky, tricky.
Once you’ve chosen your field, it’s time to get to work. To ascertain the clearest path to success, I conducted a rigorous, multivariable cointegrational structural analysis of former Nobel laureates and their accomplishments correlated to nano-quasicrystals and market patterns. (I have no idea what that means, but I’ve been reading about Nobel Prizes all day and let me tell you, my vocabulary is now three times as big.)
How to Win a Nobel Peace Prize
There are five possible paths to a Nobel Peace Prize:
(1) Play an integral part in resolving a longstanding and seemingly intractable conflict.
(2) Live in a country without freedom, liberty, or human rights and advocate for all three.
(3) Help the poor and suffering, either through personal action or through international advocacy work.
(4) Work to promote sustainable development and environmental responsibility or create safeguards on potential environmental disasters.
(5) Do nothing. Attract limelight and show great potential.
Look around you. Do you see conflict? Go through door number one. Do you live in a country with a totalitarian government? Number two is your ticket. And so on. Depending on which path you choose to follow, you may have to relocate or travel a fair amount, but your sacrifices will doubtless be rewarded in the end.
How to Win a Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine
It was a little harder for me to decode the winning combination of laureate attributes for the hard sciences prize because, quite frankly, their accomplishments are way over my head. If you’re a Physics person, though, rest assured that you can think big or small: prizes have been awarded for work done on the expansion of the universe (big) as well as achievements on the atomic level (small).
Better yet, I have a few keywords to guide your work in the sciences, which you can use both to see if you’re on the right track and to gather traction on your race to the Nobel Prize. You must have words from at least two of the following three groups of Nobel Prize Keywords.
Group A (must-have)
How to Win a Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel
It’s all about the analysis, baby. Nearly all of the prizes in Economics cited the laureate’s analysis of something, and usually in relation to a topic within macroeconomics. There were a few exceptions—people working with different theories or methods of analysis, for example—but if you’re a big picture person with a penchant for analysis, get going on your magnum opus asap and you’re golden.
How to Win a Nobel Prize in Literature
The Nobel Prize in Literature has gone through several distinctive phases, and the official party line says that the Award Committee has a special commitment to experimenters, unknown masters, and those who are just “goddamn good,” as committee member Horace Engdahl once said. Based on the last ten years, though, I can narrow it down a little more.
While all literary genres have been honored with a Nobel Prize, there seems to be a special emphasis on novelists who write with poetic clarity and images. This year’s laureate, Tomas Tranströmer from Sweden, is a poet whose “condensed, translucent images” were cited as grounds for prize by the awards committee. In past years, however, the emphasis has been on portraying and exposing power structures within society on both the political and personal levels. If you can work in a haunting insight of a group that is either oppressed or dispossessed, then you’re on fire. Take those themes and turn them into an oeuvre.
For some spice, consider adding haunting undertones of sensuality or melancholy or throw in some overpowering forces (like that of history, arbitrary power, or the weather) to highlight human vulnerabilities.
DONE! Now you just have to publish 10-50 novels, plays, or works of poetry developing your particular twist on the theme, and you’re good to go.
Alright, all of you. See you in Stockholm in a few years! I call dibs on sitting next to HRH Crown Princess Victoria and the baby at the Table of Honor.