That was as far as it went until several years later, when a librarian pointed out that two of the scientists’ colleagues, Jonas Frisén and Konstantinos Meletis, had used a different Dylan reference in a paper about the ability of non-neural cells to generate neurons: 2003’s Blood On The Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate?. Soon the bet was struck: “The one who has written most articles with Dylan quotes, before going into retirement, wins a lunch at the [local] restaurant Jöns Jacob,” Lundberg said.
Word spread quickly through Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, where all four men work, and before long there was a fifth competitor: Kenneth Chien, a professor of cardiovascular research, who is also keen to win a free lunch. By the time he met the others, he already had one Dylan paper to his name - Tangled Up In Blue: Molecular Cardiology in the Postmolecular Era, published in 1998.
With five competing rivals, the pace of Dylan references accelerated. Lundberg and Weitzberg’s The Biological Role of Nitrate and Nitrite: The Times They Are A-changin’, in 2009; Eph Receptors Tangled Up In Two in 2010; Dietary Nitrate – A Slow Train Coming, in 2011. The bet is not for strict scientific papers, Weitzberg said. “We could have got in trouble for that,” he said. “[This is for] articles we have written about research by others, book introductions, editorials and things like that.”
All the scientists are great fans of Dylan - he ought to win the Nobel prize for literature, suggests Weitzberg - but they are also realistic about his role in their careers. As Weitzberg told The Local: “I would much rather become famous for my scientific work than for my Bob Dylan quotes.