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‘The Only Reason to Win a Nobel’: Free Parking

Never mind the respect of one’s peers and the shared $1.5-million cash award.

Saul Perlmutter, the University of California scientist who was named today as one of three winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics, revealed the other great thing about the honor: one of the free parking spaces that Berkeley gives its Nobel laureates.

“Which of course is the only reason to win a Nobel Prize, to be able to park on campus,” Mr. Perlmutter joked in an interview with the Associated Press.

Mr. Perlmutter shared the Nobel with Brian P. Schmidt, of the Australian National University, and Adam G. Riess, of the Johns Hopkins University’s Space Telescope Science Institute, for their “discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations” of supernovas, according to a citation from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

No word yet on whether Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Riess will also receive a parking prize from their home universities.

Parking is a hassle at many colleges, and as an urban campus, the University of California at Berkeley feels the squeeze worse than most others. Thus the university fittingly honors its Nobel laureates by granting them free parking for life.

Kathleen Maclay, a spokeswoman for the university, says the idea of awarding free parking to its Nobelists started with Czeslaw Milosz, who received the literature award in 1980. “But the first free parking space was actually awarded to Gerard Debreu, who won the Nobel in 1983 for economics,” she said via e-mail last week.

Ms. Maclay said that Berkeley had seven free, marked reserved Nobel parking spaces on the campus. Mr. Perlmutter’s would make eight.

“The spaces are free for life and have a current value of $1,488 per year, the cost of a ‘C’ (Central Campus) permit,” Ms. Maclay said.

Congratulations to Mr. Perlmutter on the prize and the parking permit. The universe may be expanding, but the amount of campus parking is not.

—Don Troop

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