The Nobel Prizes are arguably the world’s most prestigious recognition of excellence. If you’ve got one of them, you’re hot-shit forever. The medallion is 18-karat gold with a silhouette of the big man himself, Alfred Nobel, on it and the winner’s name stamped on the back. One such medal is going up for auction by the Nate D. Sanders Auction House, which probably also will sell you a Little League championship trophy if you didn’t win one, too.
Wilson died in 2013, after a long career at Cornell (where his research earned him the prize in 1982), and Ohio State University. Wilson founded “lattice gauge theory,” an integral part of high-energy physics, and studied matter transitioning between states for most of his career. Lattice gauge theory, basically, gives theoretical physicists a framework to understand how the space-time continuum works in certain conditions. It’s some seriously math-heavy, far-out shit, and Wilson got both a Nobel Prize and a mega-wonky spacetime theory/ phenomenon named after him — The Wilson Loop.
This isn’t the first time a Nobel Prize has gone up for auction. Prizes are often auctioned off when their bearer dies, with the proceeds usually going to scientific research or charity. In 2015, James Watson became the first living recipient to auction off his Nobel Prize (for discovering DNA’s double-helix structure), but the Russian billionaire who bought it for $4.1 million promptly gave it back to him.
It does seem a bit strange to sell off one the world’s most exclusive awards, but academia doesn’t exactly pay a lot, so the estates of famous scientists are often happy to part with an award for a significant chunk of change. Dr. Alan Hodgkin’s prize went for $795,614 last year — bidding on Wilson’s prize starts at $450,000, but it’ll probably go for much more than that.
If you’ve got a spare million or so lying around, you can start bidding online now.