Quantum pioneers win physics Nobel Prize

Two pioneers of quantum optics, a field that has paved the way for super-fast computing, have been awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for physics.

October 9, 2012

French physicist Serge Haroche, a professor of the Collège de France and Ecole normale supérieure, shares the prize with David Wineland, a physicist at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology and University of Colorado Boulder.

Announcing the prize at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on 9 October, the Nobel Assembly said it had been awarded for "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems".

Single particles of light or matter are difficult to measure or manipulate because they lose their quantum properties when they interact with the outside world.

The Nobel laureates independently developed ways to measure and manipulate individual particles without them losing their quantum properties.

The research paves the way for the first steps in quantum technologies such as computers that can exploit the mysterious properties of quantum systems to run at incredibly fast speeds.

Jim Al-Khalili, professor of physics at the University of Surrey, said the winners had worked for some years carrying out "quite remarkable experiments".

"Until the last decade or two, some of these results were nothing more than ideas in science fiction or, at best, the wilder imaginations of quantum physicists," he said.

"Wineland and Haroche and their teams have shown just how strange the quantum world really is and opened up the potential for new technologies undreamt of not so long ago."

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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