Seed in Stockholm: Adam Bly

Gossip / by Adam Bly /

Our Editor-in-Chief reports from Stockholm and the Nobels.

Down Time
A chilly Friday here in Stockholm, even for a Montrealer. No official Nobel business today. The laureates are Nobel spokespeople for the day, taping interviews for the Nobel website and lunching with their respective

Among my meetings today, I had lunch with a colleague at the Berns Hotel, stopped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pick up my ticket to tomorrow’s
award ceremony and had coffee with the staff at the Swedish science magazine Forskning & Framsteg. They gave me an umbrella with a map of the sky on the inside. So when you look up ... Very innovative.

CNN International continues to report on the Nobel Peace Prize and El-Baradei. Nothing so far on the science prizes. I wonder what kind of press attention the science laureates and the science prizes in general get across Europe. I don’t think I remember ever seeing significant TV coverage in the US or Canada for that matter either.

I read today that Alfred Nobel wrote in his will that the prizes are to be awarded to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Of course, interpreted literally, this would pose an impossible task to even the most competent prize awarding committee. But given that ultimate standard and requirement, it is noteworthy that most of us cannot recall what or who merited the prize in recent years.

That needs to change.

Opening Thoughts and Hitting the Ground in Stockholm
Every December, a handful of scientists from around the world come to Stockholm to receive the most coveted, the most prestigious, the most important prize in all of science. I was asked today what I thought it meant to win the Nobel. My initial response: the lifetime opportunity for a scientist, whose audience is otherwise constituted primarily of other scientists, to speak to the world. From this point forward they were part of an exclusive club of icons with a uniquely powerful soapbox.

The Nobel festivities are rich in history, tradition and awe-inspiring European glamour. The week leading up to the ceremony (which takes place this Saturday) is filled with official lectures, dinners and tasks. For the laureates, the week begins with a visit to the Nobel Museum on Stortorget, the main square in Stockholm’s Old Square. The visit ends with the laureates autographing chairs at the museum’s restaurant, Kafe Satir, as many of their predecessors have done before them. Tonight, Yo-Yo Ma will perform with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo as well as The Silk Road Ensemble.

My SAS flight from New York to Stockholm felt short. This was the first transatlantic flight I’ve taken where the flight attendants did not see the need to close the window shades, so sleeping passengers would not be disturbed at the first sign of daylight. We landed at 7:30 a.m. in pitch darkness. It’s dark in Stockholm. I went straight to my hotel, showered and changed and headed to Stureplan to give a talk to a group of Stockholm’s media and advertising leaders, hosted by Resume—Sweden’s Advertising Age. Very cool venue and very interesting crowd. I gave a couple follow-up interviews and am now off to the Nobel physics lecture.

Originally published December 8, 2005

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