Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012 was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012 was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems"

Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland have independently invented and developed methods for measuring and manipulating individual particles while preserving their quantum-mechanical nature, in ways that were previously thought unattainable.

The Nobel Laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them. For single particles of light or matter the laws of classical physics cease to apply and quantum physics takes over. But single particles are not easily isolated from their surrounding environment and they lose their mysterious quantum properties as soon as they interact with the outside world. Thus many seemingly bizarre phenomena predicted by quantum physics could not be directly observed, and researchers could only carry out thought experiments that might in principle manifest these bizarre phenomena.

Through their ingenious laboratory methods Haroche and Wineland together with their research groups have managed to measure and control very fragile quantum states, which were previously thought inaccessible for direct observation. The new methods allow them to examine, control and count the particles.

Their methods have many things in common. David Wineland traps electrically charged atoms, or ions, controlling and measuring them with light, or photons.

Serge Haroche takes the opposite approach: he controls and measures trapped photons, or particles of light, by sending atoms through a trap.

Both Laureates work in the field of quantum optics studying the fundamental interaction between light and matter, a field which has seen considerable progress since the mid-1980s. Their ground-breaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of super fast computer based on quantum physics. Perhaps the quantum computer will change our everyday lives in this century in the same radical way as the classical computer did in the last century. The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time, with more than hundred-fold greater precision than present-day caesium clocks.

Serge Haroche, French citizen. Born 1944 in Casablanca, Morocco. Ph.D. 1971 from Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France. Professor at Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.

David J. Wineland, U.S. citizen. Born 1944 in Milwaukee, WI, USA. Ph.D. 1970 from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA. Group Leader and NIST Fellow at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Colorado Boulder, CO, USA

Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland

The practical use of their invention "ions in a trap" is to build a clock that is a hundred times more precise than the caesium based atomic clocks which are currently the standard for our measurement of time. An another important use is, nearing the dream of creating "Quantum Computer".

What is Quantum Computer?

A possible application of "ion traps" that many scientists dream of is the quantum computer. In present-day classical computers the smallest unit of information is a bit that takes the value of either 1 or 0. In a quantum computer, however, the basic unit of information – a quantum bit or qubit – can be 1 and 0 at the same time. Two quantum bits can simultaneously take on four values – 00, 01, 10 and 11 – and each additional qubit doubles the amount of possible states. For n quantum bits there are 2n possible states, and a quantum computer of only 300 qubits could hold 2300 values simultaneously, more than the number of atoms in the universe.

Wineland’s group was the first in the world to demonstrate a quantum operation with two quantum bits. Since control operations have already been achieved with a few qubits, there is in principle no reason to believe that it should not be possible to achieve such operations with many more qubits.

However, to build such a quantum computer is an enormous practical challenge. One has to satisfy two opposing requirements: the qubits need to be adequately isolated from their environment in order not to destroy their quantum properties, yet they must also be able to communicate with the outside world in order to pass on the results of their calculations.

Perhaps the quantum computer will be built in this century. If so, it will change our lives in the same radical way as the classical computer transformed life in the last century.

Nobel Prize Money got Reduced

This year Nobel prize money got reduced this year.Wineland and Haroche will get less than their colleagues last year. The Nobel foundation trimmed the value of the prize from 10 million kronor last year to the lowest level since 1999 to avoid “undermining” the foundation’s capital.

Some Facts about Nobel prize for Physics

105 Nobel Prizes in Physics have been awarded since 1901. It was not awarded on six occasions: in 1916, 1931, 1934, 1940, 1941, and 1942.

47 Physics Prizes have been given to one Laureate only.
29 Physics Prizes have been shared by two Laureates.
29 Physics Prizes have been shared between three Laureates.

To date, the youngest Nobel Laureate in Physics is Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 years old when he was awarded the Nobel Prize together with his father in 1915. Bragg is not only the youngest Physics Laureate, he is also the youngest Nobel Laureate in any Nobel Prize category.

The oldest Nobel Laureate in Physics to date is Raymond Davis Jr., who was 88 years old when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2002.

Of the 191 individuals awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, only two are women.
1903 - Marie Curie (also awarded the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.)
1963 - Maria Goeppert-Mayer

John Bardeen is the only person who has received the Nobel Prize in Physics twice. Marie Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize twice, once in Physics and once in Chemistry.

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