Sadly, this is not a post about how I won the Nobel Prize for Literature (I guess you have to have actually published a book before you can be nominated, FINE) but instead about the new book, How to Win a Nobel Prize, by Barry Marshall, who actually did win a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005. It’s a book he’s written with Lorna Hendry, along with Bernard Caleo who did all the illustrations – neither Lorna or Bernard have any Nobel Prizes either, but as I have now learned, the Nobel takes so long to win that we still have a few decades of prize-earning ahead of us. Though, as I’ve also learned, it’s not about the prize – it’s about helping people.
At the start of the book, a bored, science-loving kid named Mary is waiting with her Mum for an event that supposedly will have Barry Marshall (yes, the author!) attending. Barry’s late, and Mary goes for a wonder, which is when she happens across a very strange group of people having a very confusing meeting – she’s busted a gathering of past and present Nobel Prize Winners, brought together by Barry and a mysterious time travel device. When they ask Mary to keep her discovery a secret, she cuts a savvy deal: she’ll zip her lips if they give her advice on how to win her own Nobel someday. And so, with time travel on their side, Barry and Mary go on a journey through time to meet the Nobel Laureates and get some hard-won advice. And so they land (bumpily!) on boats, on farms, crash a party, and learn some excellent things along the way. Each chapter is short and punchy, and visits those scientists we know (like Albert Einstein) and the lesser-widely-known-to-the-non-scientific-public scientists (like Tu Youyou), and even some non-winners-but-should-have-won (like Rosalind Franklin). It’s a really interesting adventure, learning about some pretty amazing advances, like the cure for malaria and the discovery of black holes, but since it also talks about the hardships of some of the winners it’s really fascinating too. Some scientists got looked over because they were women, or because they were escaping war, or because their ideas seemed so crazypants that other scientists were all, “That is unbelievable, so we don’t believe you.” Everyone’s got a story to tell and some excellent points to make, and Mary – who is very determined and also a bit cranky from all the confusing time-travelling – might make some use of their advice…one day…
Each meeting also ends with a nifty science experiment to try as well – no Nobel required! It’s a lot of fun and explains some pretty way-out stuff in really straightforward ways, which is good for people like me who are not good at the science stuff (I’m an excellent speller though, really gud.)
I’m a bit early on this one – but you can buy a copy from April 2!