Philip Dybvig


Nobel Prize Conversations

“I was just curious about everything”

Meet economist Philip Dybvig in a podcast episode. He tells us about his endless curiosity and how his parents encouraged his interest in the world from an early age. In his childhood home music played an important role and Dybvig shares how he and the rest of his family played musical instruments. The host of this podcast is’s Adam Smith, joined by Clare Brilliant. This podcast was released on 18 May, 2023.

Below you find a transcript of the podcast interview. The transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. 

Philip H. Dybvig receiving his prize
Philip H. Dybvig receiving his prize from H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at Konserthuset Stockholm on 10 December 2022. © Nobel Prize Outreach. Photo: Nanaka Adachi


Philip Dybvig: I was just curious about everything. Everything was interesting and I always felt like I didn’t have enough time to learn all the interesting things. I think that was a big strength that I had.

Adam Smith: Being curious about everything is truly a great gift. One of the things I liked about this conversation with Phil Dibvig is listening to how he embraces the many opportunities out there for research. He talks about his ideas pretty freely and sometimes people steal ideas. But that doesn’t worry him overly because there are so many ideas to have, it doesn’t matter if something gets stolen, he can just work on the next idea. That’s nice because it shows you that there aren’t really so much missed opportunities as just lots of opportunities that one can pursue. That’s a very encouraging thought, I think that the world is more full of possibilities than perhaps one imagines.


Clare Brilliant: This is Nobel Prize Conversations. Our guest this time is Philip Dybvig, 2022 laureate in economic sciences. He was awarded the prize for developing theoretical models about the role of banks in financial crises – forming the foundation of modern bank regulation. He shared the prize with Douglas Diamond and Ben Bernanke.

Your host is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer at Nobel Prize Outreach. This podcast was produced in cooperation with Fundación Ramón Areces.

Philip Dybvig is the Boatmen’s Bancshares Professor of banking and finance at the Olin Business School of Washington University in St Louis. He is also a musician, and very nearly chose that professional path instead of going into economic research. We’ll hear him talk about this fork in the road, as well as his boundless curiosity and his love of weightlifting.

But we start – with music.

MUSIC: Clip from the Nobel Prize award ceremony

Smith: This, of course, is Mozart’s March in D Major, K. 249, which is the music that always plays to accompany the new laureates as they walk on stage at the award ceremony in the concert hall in Stockholm. Do you remember that moment with special pleasure, and can you recollect what you were thinking as you walked on stage?

Dybvig: Actually as I walked on stage, I was happy to see Ingrid Werner, who’s an old friend who walked up alongside me for eight meters or whatever, and she’d been a little under the weather the previous day, and I hadn’t been able to see her, so it was nice to give her a nod. That was what I was thinking.

Smith: Once you took your chair and you were seated there with everyone around you, did anything in particular occur to you as you were on stage?

Dybvig: Mostly I just wanted to make sure I didn’t screw up, that I didn’t make any big mistakes. It was a nice moment. Everything during Nobel Week was so well orchestrated. It was exhausting. If I had gotten the prize 20 years ago, I would have signed up for all the optional events and I would have had the energy to do them all. But I think that it’s just very overwhelming the whole week and a big schedule and you start out jet-lagged. I had more and better champagne than I’ve ever had before in my life. It was a spectacle the whole week.

Smith: Yes, the champagne haze. Was there one favourite moment?

Dybvig: I think that for all the wonderful things in the week, I think it was really nice. We booked a room for a private dinner with our official guests and a few other people. That was of course nice. We don’t get to see our guests all that much during the week because we’re booked up so much. That was something that was special. I had arranged for a piano to be there and I have a picture of me playing the piano and my daughter singing and a good friend of mine, you can actually see in the mirror in the room, playing the flute. That was a nice moment. Music’s always been important for me so that’s something that actually came up several times.

About music

Smith: That is indeed why I thought it would be nice to start this conversation with music. What were you and your daughter playing and singing at that occasion?

Dybvig: I don’t remember. It was whatever she requested.

Smith: That’s clever that you can just provide whatever she wants.

Dybvig: Not always but I’m pretty good at requests.

Smith: You play the piano. What else do you play?

Dybvig: That’s my main instrument. The interesting thing is that in several of the productions I’m playing a baritone ukulele which is an instrument that I only started, I don’t know, in September. I’ve worked professionally playing the piano but never the baritone uke. But somehow that seems to work its way into everything. I have a friend who 70 years ago at the age of 12 was a radio and television personality in St. Louis and he has trouble playing now because of some physical problems with his fingers, so he’s been giving away some of his instruments. He gave me this very lovely baritone uke.

Smith: I guess it’s more portable than a piano.

Dybvig: Yes, and when the Associated Press interviewed me in Boston, I didn’t have a piano with me because I was on the road, but I had brought the baritone uke and they used that in their initial news announcement.

CLIP: Dybvig playing the ukulele to the Associated Press

Smith: Did you ever think of becoming a musician professionally?

Dybvig: Yes, that was something I thought about. One of the reasons I decided not to was actually because I knew that would have to be 100% of my life and I wasn’t quite ready for that. But also at the age when I was deciding I had stage fright which was quite bad. I realise now that that would have and has gone away over time. When you’ve had experience talking in front of audiences, for me in classes and in conferences, and also playing music in front of people after a while, it becomes normal and for me at least the stage fright went away. There are famous musicians, I think Vladimir Horowitz was one who supposedly had terrible stage fright their whole life.

Smith: Yes, it’s common. I’m told the actor David Niven, who seems the epitome of confidence on screen, also suffered incredible stage fright before going on screen.

Dybvig: That’s interesting. Yes, I find it helps to pretend that I’m confident. And then there’s actually psychological research that says if you pretend that you’re happy then you actually get happier. If you pretend that you’re confident you actually get more confident, so it’s curious.

Smith: It’s nice that confidence in music and confidence in as you say teaching economics and finance reinforce each other and build.

Dybvig: Yes.

Smith: Do you play a full classical repertoire?

Dybvig: Maybe past tense. I am classically trained and by the end of high school I was playing five or six hours a day. Various things in school like playing with the orchestra and the chorus and playing during study hall and also playing after school. My sister’s a concert pianist. She claims that I could have been. I’m not sure because I’m not sure I really had the single-minded devotion that’s really required.

Smith: What was it about your home environment that produced two potential concert pianists, one actual concert pianist but two such talented musicians?

Dybvig: I think that we had a culture of music. My mother was a music education major in college and my father is also a drummer and he had made spending money in college playing in a band. So there was that culture and they were into music and we had music playing a fair amount in the house. We had a lot of musical instruments sort of sitting around that you could pick up and play if you wanted to.

Smith: It must be a very valuable lesson going through life to know that you can dedicate five or six hours a day to doing something because it’s not so usual that young people do that.

Dybvig: I think there are a couple of things. One is that I’m sure that the music helped a lot with my self-discipline but it’s also a question of finding the things that you like. When I talk to my students about research and picking a research topic I tell them that they need to work on something that they care about. There could be a lot of different reasons why they care about but if it’s something where you’re really curious you gotta know or you’re really angry because you think that people are saying the wrong thing and they got it backwards or you just think it’s so important for the humanity to get this right and you’ve got a passion that you need to do it, then you can work on it for 20 hours a week or 80 hours a week and it’s something you want to do. If it’s something that you’re doing because you think this is something that you can get published and it’ll help your career but you don’t really like the project, you don’t care about it, then it’s a big chore to work on it for three hours a week. I think that if somebody would look at me and say, oh that means that my kids have to play music, I would say no. It means that you have to find something for your kids which is a hook for them. And for different people it’ll be a different thing. Maybe art is what they want to spend five hours a day on or dance or some sports, whatever it is. I think it’s good to have something that you care about and that you’re focused on. For what I do, something that uses your brain too and gets you thinking.

Smith: It’s very good advice. Do you think it matters if young people spend their time doing something that seemingly doesn’t seem to be terribly productive like six hours playing computer games a day?

Dybvig: Yes, at least with computer games there’s some, it’s not passive. I think I would be happier to see my kid playing computer games than just watching television. I’ve watched plenty of television. I think you need time too to just play and to let your mind be free and be creative. What I really worry about is all these things that are good uses of time but the kids are just completely booked up with the amount of homework they have plus the dancing lessons, plus the fencing lessons, plus the soccer game and all of these structured activities. They don’t have time for unstructured play that was good for creativity.


Smith: Your childhood was different. You had time to be yourself.

Dybvig: Yes, I had time to be myself. Before my mom passed actually she taught me something about myself. She said, Phil you never once when you were a kid said, ”Mom I’m bored I don’t know what to do”. Because I don’t know I was just curious about everything. Everything was interesting and I always felt like I didn’t have enough time to do all the interesting things and to learn all the interesting things. I think that was a big strength that I had.

Smith: That’s fabulous and very lucky to have a mind that is so hungry I guess.

Dybvig: I’m not sure how much of that is heredity or how much of that is environment but I think it’s very easy to kill that off in kids. My gut tells me but I have no evidence of this that little kids are just naturally curious, naturally creative. If you can keep that alive I think that serves people really well.

Smith: In your own case you went on to study maths and physics as your major at university. You obviously were very good with numbers. Were numbers something that always came easily to you?

Dybvig: I think so. I think it was an advantage being in a family where my parents told me math was easy. I can imagine being in a family where your dad says, math was so hard for me. If you can get a C that’s really great. I think that would really make you not so good at math. But if your parents are saying or other people in your family are saying math is easy then of course you don’t want to be bad at something that’s easy. You look really bad. But I think it helped in terms of the math. I think music both the discipline part and also the mathematical side of the music helped. Also playing games was so important. We joke about how I knew how to play bridge before I knew how to talk. That’s not literally true but it’s the right idea. I think that you get into the bridge game. You want to try to remember the cards play. You want to count the cards. You want to try to infer what suits your opponents have left when you’re playing a hand. There’s all sorts of things which are sort of mathematical exercises even if they’re not posed that way.

Smith: Yes, I think that an interest in bridge at a very early age is pretty unusual.

Dybvig: It was just normal in my family. At family gatherings the first thing is to get out the bridge tables.

Brilliant: Philip Dybvig grew up in Dayton, Ohio, before he left to study mathematics and physics at Indiana University. Eventually switching to economics, he received his doctorate at Yale where he met his co-laureate Douglas Diamond. For 12 years, until 2021, professor Dybvig led a summer research program at Chengdu’s Southwest University of Finance and Economics, in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

Philip H. Dybvig giving his lecture
Philip H. Dybvig giving his lecture in economic sciences. 7 December 2022. © Nobel Prize Outreach. Photo: Anna Svanberg

About the time in China

Dybvig: I like saying I was a dean because dean and director are the same word in Chinese and I think it’s funnier to think of myself as a dean.

Smith: Why is it funny to think of yourself as a dean?

Dybvig: When I think of a dean I think of some kind of authority figure that I don’t feel like I am. My main role there was to help the local people, especially the local faculty in their research. I would bring in speakers and set up lecture series and advise them on the research and do joint work with them.

Smith: Is there something in particular about the Chinese environment that makes it a pleasure to work there and to nurture an institute in that place?

Dybvig: I think I started going at a time in my life when I needed a change. It was really fun the first time I went to China and I didn’t speak any Chinese I just know how to say hello and no problem. That would get me by. I would go into a restaurant and I would look at the menu and in Beijing most of the menus have pictures on them so I would point to the pictures. Then they would ask me something and I didn’t know what they said. Do you want pepper sauce or garlic sauce? And I would just say no problem. And then it’s like you’re the pro, bring me something good. That was fun. It was a little bit I imagine like a vow of silence in some religious orders because it was impossible for me to have a conversation. It was very peaceful but it was also a little exciting and not too dangerous because I had a cell phone and friends who could help me out if I needed it. That was interesting and in Sichuan especially, Chengdu where I was working, they have the spicy food which is really great. It’s called Ma La Cai. Ma means numbing and la is hot and spicy. The food there has both Sichuan peppercorns which have this numbing effect and the hot peppers.

Smith: Over the years you’ve learnt Chinese, I gather?

Dybvig: Just a little. I learn enough to, I know some food names and I know a few funny things. I know how to say I can speak absolutely no Chinese in Chinese.

Smith: Do you want to say that for me?

Dybvig: Huo gan ben bu hui suo zhong wan. That has a little bit of a Sichuan accent flavour. There are some countries you can be very proficient in their language and speak with them for ten minutes and they’ll say at the end, yyou can’t speak French, can you? But they’re actually very grateful for your knowing a little bit and for making the effort. It’s a way of signaling that you respect their culture and you’re interested in it. It’s really rewarding, you just know a little bit. It’s nice if I’m going to go to some kind of a dinner with officials like they have 12 people sitting around a round table with a lazy Susan in the middle with the food on it, to be able to name some of the foods and just give pleasantries, hello, how are you, etc. in Chinese. Maybe I don’t understand much what they’re saying the rest of the dinner, but at least it’s established that I respect them and I’m part of it. I’m not just an outsider, 100%.

Economics and finance

Smith: Let’s go back to you as a maths and physics major. What turned you to economics and finance? What switched you?

Dybvig: I’ve always had a lot of interest. That means that you don’t quite know which direction you really want to go in. I went to Indiana because it was at that time the top music school and also it was kind of the right distance away from home. It was close enough so that I could come home for holidays conveniently and far enough that my parents were unlikely to visit me without calling first. I was planning to be a double major in math and music, but I found out the music school was too good. They say we don’t do double majors. If you have any interest in anything else, just do it. Music is too hard. So I said, okay, well, I guess I’m a math major. I took some courses in the music school. I actually accompanied opera singers to make pocket money, play for their lessons and their practice. I was in a number of student music things and went to lots of performances or rich set of performances, so I benefited a lot from the good music school there, even though I wasn’t a music major. Now after I’d been there for like a year or so, I realised I really wanted to do something that applied math, not pure mathematics. At that point, physics and economics were the main candidates. When I went to the physics department, I say, what’s my chance of getting into a top PhD program in physics if I’m majoring in math and economics as an undergraduate? The advisor laughed and said, well, seriously, there’s a whole body of knowledge that you need to know that you wouldn’t have. That’s a problem. I went to the economics department and I asked the parallel question. I said, what are my chances of getting into a top graduate school in economics if I may have an undergraduate major in math and physics? The advisor said, oh, that’d be so great because you learn the skills you need. You get the problem solving approach from the physics and the math background from the math and undergraduate economics, at least at that time, he said, was not very close to graduate economics.

Smith: It’s such an insightful question on your part. And what a nice answer on his part. Yeah, they’re open to outside influence. It’s fantastic.

Dybvig: I didn’t know the notion of dominant strategy, which I would call it now to major in math and physics, but I knew putting off a decision. I could put off a decision on what I wanted to do by majoring in math and physics. When it was time to graduate, I had to make a decision. That’s when I went to economics. I actually made another transition, which is within economics, I ended up focusing mostly on finance.

Brilliant: So Adam, what was the work that led to Philip Dibvig being awarded the prize in economic sciences?

Smith: Together with his co-laureate Douglas Diamond, he produced the Diamond-Dibvig model, which describes how liquidity works in financial systems in banks. Basically, banks receive deposits from investors and then they give money out as loans to people who want to build things like buy houses or develop businesses, etc. The model describes the interplay between those two things. One rather short-term deposits, they come in and people might want their money back very quickly. One very long-term loans where you might not get paid back for many years. That interplay turns out to be very key in understanding how liquidity is created in financial systems, how people get credit.

Brilliant: Why is the Diamond-Dybvig model so important?

Smith: Taken together with the work of the other laureate in this economic sciences prize, Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, who had shown how important banks are in preserving the financial system and in the provision of credit, the work helps people understand just how important it is to make sure that banks are there and functioning and aren’t foreclosing. Therefore, that has influenced the way that central bankers around the world think about banks when times are hard. During, for instance, the financial crisis of 2008, people realised in a way that they hadn’t during the Great Depression of the 1930s, that it was really important that the banks didn’t all close or that lots of banks didn’t close, because then that would have deprived the financial system of credit. And without credit, nobody can build up again. It has actually had quite a profound influence on the way that policy makers view the role of banks. This is quite a change in perspective. And it’s interesting to listen to Phil Dybvig talk about what the situation was like back in the 1970s when he started to work on financial systems.

Dybvig: It’s strange that at that time, people did not think of banking as being in finance, but I think people in finance departments now would say that banking is in finance. Curiously, they still don’t think insurance is in finance. I don’t understand that. Actually I find it a little annoying when people need to put me or put different parts of disciplines in boxes. I think that creates artificial restrictions on the way people think. In my experience, things work out better if they happen organically. For example, a few times I said about saying I want to do something that’s important for policy and it was never anywhere near the magnitude of importance of the things like what Doug and I did in the prize paper that I did because of curiosity.

Smith: Sticking to your own rule of doing what you care about, truly care about.

Dybvig: I cared about the policy things too because I thought they were important, but somehow it didn’t seem to be as important as what I did when I was really curious. I just wanted to figure out what’s going on.

Smith: That leads me to ask how you pick problems. Basically your work always involves applying a theoretical analysis to some kind of practical problem. But there are so many problems. How do you pick where to go?

Dybvig: I don’t have any formula. It’s what I’m interested in, what I’m curious about.

Smith: Is there any problem that you can’t apply a theoretical analysis to?

Dybvig: Of course. You may be able to apply to some aspects, a lot of things in life I do think about using these things. That started when I was a kid. It probably grew out of doing games and puzzles. When I was walking to and from school I noticed that when I walked to school, I took a little different route than I did coming home. Our neighbourhood was not arranged in squares, it was curved streets. It wasn’t obvious, what’s the shortest way or what’s the fastest way. So I asked myself, is there a good reason for that? Or is it just that if I’m just looking at what’s in front of me and not paying attention to the fact that there’s something up further, which is going to be worse if I go that way. When I thought about it, actually, there was some of both. So if I’m walking along, and I’m going to walk along a busy street for a while, and when I get to the street, it’s coming from one side, and I leave the street, it’s going to be from the other side, then what I want to do is to, each time I come to an intersection, I see how busy the traffic is. There are no cars and I cross. That way I can minimise the time that I wait for the cars. I could just cross at the first intersection I get to, but if there are a lot of cars coming, I’m going to waste time with that. If I get to the intersection and don’t cross, so I go to the next one. It turns out that’s a reason for it to be asymmetric, because I’m going to tend to cross earlier, say farther north, in one direction, and earlier in the other direction as well, which would be farther south. So there’s an asymmetry in the path that I take, which comes from actually doing the right thing. I also figured out there are some things I was doing which were just not optimal, that I was just looking at when I’m coming from this direction, then this one thing seems more important. When I’m coming from the other direction, another thing comes more important.

Smith: Did you change your route to optimise it after that?

Dybvig: Yes, of course. I also randomised some just for interest. I think partly that was just curiosity and also a way of relieving the boredom of walking through the same route every day.

Smith: It is indeed revealing about how your mind works. It shows you grew up perhaps in a gentler place than I did. I grew up in London, and I think my route to school was mainly dictated by which way was less likely to encounter bullies.

Dybvig: Yes, and I think being in this upper middle class, very peaceful suburb of Dayton with very good public schools, gave me kind of the breathing room to develop. As you say, I didn’t have to deal with gangs or bullies. I did encounter, like everybody does, a few bullies, but they were kind of low-level bullies. They were kind of easy to deal with.

Smith: I think ours were low-level too. But yes, the breathing space again, so important.


Smith: I wanted to just talk about the Diamond-Dybvig paper. The thing about that paper is that as so often when two bright people get together and do something special, the whole is more than the sum of the parts, if you like, that somehow by working together, you create something truly special. It’s interesting because you have to, I suppose, to a certain extent, kind of put your own ego aside to share knowledge with somebody else. Especially in academia, that’s not perhaps so normal. People are trying to plow your own furrow and make your own career. But obviously it was a very successful relationship. I just wondered what you thought about that.

Dybvig: Okay, I’ll mention a couple of things. Once we got into the paper, we were just full equal partners and we did everything. We came in more different than we exited, I think. Doug knew a lot about banking institutions. He has talked about a professor he had at Brown as an undergraduate that had a fabulous course and that was a piece of background he had. I had a stronger background in theory and I’d done papers with multiple equilibrium, which I talked about in my Nobel lecture, that primed me to be thinking about at least part of this in a way that worked for us. I think that one thing that helped me a lot in my early career is that I was a young kid. I got my PhD at the age of, around my 24th birthday. When I got the job at Princeton, it’s like, wow, people are just going to pay me for a few years to do something fun. I had no career concern. I knew I was smart and I was proud I was smart, probably. But I didn’t have a huge ego and I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove. I was just having fun. That meant if I had a project that I’d been working on for quite a while and it wasn’t working, I wouldn’t say, oh, I’m not going to throw away those eight months. Instead, I was thinking, this isn’t fun. I put it aside and worked on something else. I think that helped a lot. I don’t know, Doug and I never, I don’t think we ever had a moment of anger between us.

Smith: It’s nice to hear, but perhaps also surprising to hear that when you’re a young mind so full of ideas, you don’t have any worries about sharing those ideas. You don’t think if I share this with somebody else, they might run away with it and publish it themselves. I mean, you obviously didn’t suffer from that. I think a lot of young people going into academia do worry about what they should share and what they can’t share.

Dybvig: Things do get stolen. I’m not going to go into any stories about that. To the extent I worried about it, maybe it influenced me a little bit when I moved that I would be away from a colleague that I felt I couldn’t talk to. But mostly, I just talk too much. I have sort of academic tendency to share everything. Some people seem to have trouble coming up with ideas and projects to work on. I’ve never had this problem. It’s kind of like when I was a kid, there are too many things that are interesting out there. I look around and there are just so many interesting problems to work on. If somebody hears my idea that I haven’t started working on yet and wants to work on it, I say, yeah, go ahead. I’ll have another idea. I don’t know why that’s easier for me than for some people. It’s a little bit like, if you’re good at algebra, it’s hard to conceive of what it feels like to be weak at algebra. Because, you learn this when you’re so young, you don’t remember the time that you didn’t know it.

Smith: Having an abundance of ideas, how lovely. Do they just pop into your head? Do you work at it?

Dybvig: Yes, I mean, there can be different things. For creative work, it’s good to have kind of a playtime when you’re relaxed and when you’re not working too hard. I think if you try to force it, then it’s harder, but it can be possible. For me, I really hate the idea of working under deadline, and I work very hard not to commit, say, to present a paper that it’s not ready yet, now, so that I have to push it through and come up with it. Sometimes the trigger is something, you’ll see something in the news, and you look at it and you say, that’s really an interesting setting, and I wonder how that works. You start writing down a little model, and you say, no, no, that’s not what’s going on. You try another one, and after a while, you have something that kind of fits that setting. At the end, you may say, yeah, that was kind of curious, and go on to something else. Or you may say, you know, I think that other people would be interested in seeing this, and there’s more development to do there, and you can write a paper. Sometimes you see something in the literature. You see a paper presented at a meeting or something in a journal, and you think the problem is interesting, but you think they have completely the wrong answer. And you say, why don’t I believe this answer? And you say, well, there’s a strange assumption here. Well, what happens if you switch the assumption? That’s something where there’s a more explicit trigger there. But a lot of them just come from the ether. It’s like it comes from your subconscious somewhere. It’s been thinking about things and mulling over some stuff, and then it sends you this idea. It’s like it came from outer space. Or maybe there is somebody in outer space who beamed it in. Who knows? That’s possible.

Smith: Yes. Phil Dybvig’s programmer keeps sending these ideas down. But yes, it’s very interesting to hear that account of an inquisitive mind at work. Very nice.


About weightlifting

Smith: How did you get into weightlifting?

Dybvig: When I was about 45, I weighed about 100 pounds more than I do now, about 45 kilos more. I’m sure I had high blood pressure for a long time, but that’s when I learned about it. My ankles were swollen, I felt bad, and I just had the definite impression that unless I changed something, I was going to die soon. I went out and tried all sorts of different types of exercise. I said, I’m going to have to have some kind of exercise that I’m going to be happy doing all the time. It’s really the same thing as doing research on a problem that you care about, because otherwise you won’t keep doing it. Before that, I would have thought that weightlifting was boring and stupid, but when I tried it, I really liked it. I think there are combinations of things, it’s very visceral, there are good chemicals in the brain that come, and you can measure your progress. When you start out, your progress is good, because a lot of that is coordinating your nerves and your muscles and not just building strength. You can see that you were able to do three more lifts than last time, or five more pounds of weight, and that’s really good for keeping motivated. It doesn’t take so long. If you’re going to walk 10 miles, that takes a long time. Weightlifting doesn’t take that long. I ended up with weightlifting and tai chi. They’re good compliments, because it’s possible to do the weightlifting and you end up like these Saturday Night Live parodies of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

CLIP: Hans & Franz on SNL

Dybvig: You’re just muscle-bound, you can hardly move, and then the tai chi, you can still relax.

Smith: It’s interesting to see that the same method is applied, whether it’s finding a problem or finding an exercise routine. It’s obviously a very disciplined approach.

Dybvig: I don’t feel disciplined at all. One thing that’s interesting is that, after I had like five or ten papers, I went back and looked at my papers. I don’t know if I had to write up a report on my research. They were on a lot of different topics. It struck me how similar they are. I thought that they were completely different. They were if you just look at the topic or the title, but the methodology and the way I thought about things, had a lot of patterns in it that I didn’t even realise at the time.

Smith: Interesting to analyse yourself in that way. Fascinating. It’s been a huge pleasure speaking to you. Thank you very much indeed. I hope you’ve enjoyed the conversation because I very much have.

Dybvig: Yes, very nice. Thank you so much.

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Nobel Prizes and laureates

Eleven laureates were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2023, for achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Their work and discoveries range from effective mRNA vaccines and attosecond physics to fighting against the oppression of women.

See them all presented here.

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.