Arriving in Stockholm at night in early December, I was struck by the rows of lights in the windows of the lovely old buildings. It was Advent season, so most windows had sets of white candles – traditional symbols of hope in mid-winter. Gleaming snowy streets wound like trails through dark town. Stockholm is laced with canals whose inky edges were fringed with brightly lit white boats.
I came for the Nobel Prize awards. They are given by the Swedish king each December 10 to a handful of scientists and a literary figure, who thereby gain godlike status with colleagues and the world.
I had interviewed a few Nobel prizewinners during my science writing career. I grew up in a family of scientists. My grandfather was the Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley, famous for his discovery that our solar system is not in the center of the galaxy. Most of Harlow’s extended family went into science.
So we were overjoyed to learn that one of Harlow’s sons, my uncle Lloyd S. Shapley, a well-known game theorist, was the co-winner of the 2012 Nobel Memorial prize in Economic Science.1 I was honored that uncle Lloyd included me in the accompanying group each winner is allowed. So – I came to Stockholm!