Ok, ok, the obligatory commentary. At parties now and then I toss out the comment that I’m currently working for a man who was “entered in the prize drawing for a trip to Stockholm”. It appears that his name actually was drawn this year. Sean Carroll says “I knew him when”, and then discusses the science at length. Many congratulations to Brian, who remains a profoundly decent person even while doing amazing things, and in the midst of all the media hubbub insists that he hopes his life will hardly change at all. Standing with the press, he encouraged us all to go have a beer.
People keep asking me what it’s like to work with someone who won the Nobel Prize. I assume they mean, what is it like for me, as if Brian’s winning the Nobel Prize is somehow about me. Just to head this off at the pass, it’s not. In working with a Nobel Laureate, I do in fact still have to work, and in fact this is a good reason to work harder. A colleague joked that the value of any recommendation letters Brian might write for me in the future will be quadrupled — whether the sign of that value is positive or negative!
To turn to something that is more about me, though, it is a bit sobering to realize that Brian’s only eight years older than me — meaning he did his prizewinning work when he was younger than I am now. It isn’t as though one’s talent necessarily declines with age, but one’s energy and focus may well do, and increases in one’s responsibility for worldly things may of course interfere with one’s own best intentions to do great things. Hard to know what the proper metric for “great” is either — if it’s just notoriety, that can be come by much more easily; there must be something more to it than that. But now is probably a good time for me to reflect on such things: what’s really important, how do you get there, etc., since life is short and every minute I spend blogging about it is a minute I’m not spending living it.