Three scientists have been given the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in quantum technology.
Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger were recognized for their work in a field that has many implications for secure information transfer and quantum computing.
Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for work that "laid the foundation for a new era of quantum technology," according to the Nobel Committee for Physics.
The committee said in a briefing that each of the scientists had done "groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states." This is when two particles act like a single unit even when they are far apart. It said that their results made it possible to create "new technology based on quantum information."
The work of the laureates builds on the work of physicist John Stewart Bell, who in the 1960s tried to figure out if particles that have moved too far apart for normal communication can still work together. This is called quantum entanglement.
Quantum mechanics says that a particle can be in more than one place at the same time. They don't have formal properties until they are measured or seen in some way. If you measure one particle's position or "spin," you can see a change in the other particle, no matter how far away it is from its pair.
Working on their own, the three laureates did experiments that helped clarify a basic claim about quantum entanglement, which is about the behavior of tiny particles like electrons that have interacted in the past and then moved apart.
In 1972, the first was an American named Dr. Clauser. He tried to measure quantum entanglement at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, by firing thousands of photons in opposite directions to study a property called polarization. He did this with duct tape and spare parts. When he looked at the polarizations of pairs of photons, he found that they were related. This showed that a rule called Bell's inequality had been broken and that the photon pairs were entangled, or working together.
Dr. Aspect, a French scientist, and his team at the University of Paris picked up the research 10 years later. Dr. Zeilinger, an Austrian physicist, led another experiment in 1998 that looked at how three or more particles can be linked together.
Eva Olsson, who is on the Nobel Committee for Physics, said that quantum information science has wide-ranging effects in areas like secure information transfer and quantum computing.
She said that quantum information science is "a field that is alive and growing quickly." "Its predictions have given us a window into another world, and it has also changed the way we measure things."
The Nobel committee said that the three scientists were being honored for their work with entangled photons, which showed that Bell inequalities can be broken, and for being among the first to study quantum information science.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the committee said, "Being able to control and manage quantum states and all of their layers of properties gives us access to tools with unexpected potential."
Dr. Zeilinger said that the award was meant to "give young people hope."
"More than 100 young people who worked with me over the years and made all this possible would not have made the prize possible," he said.
Even though he knew that the award was recognizing how his work could be used in the future, he said, "My advice would be to do what interests you and not worry too much about how it could be used."
It was the second of several prizes like this that would be given out over the next week. The Nobel Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in science. It is given to people who have made important advances in many different fields.
When Dr. Zeilinger got the phone call telling him the news, he said, "I'm still kind of shocked, but it's a very good shock."
Who was the 2021 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics?
The prize was given to Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi for their work explaining how people contribute to climate change.
Who else in the sciences has won a Nobel Prize this year?
- On Monday, the Physiology or Medicine prize went to Svante Paabo, a Swedish scientist who looked back into human history by getting DNA from bones that were 40,000 years old. He did this to make a complete Neanderthal genome and start the field of studying ancient DNA.
When will they tell us who won the other Nobel Prizes?
- The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm will give out the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday. Last year, Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan won for making a new tool that helped find new drugs and made chemistry less harmful to the environment. On Thursday, the Swedish Academy in Stockholm will give out the Nobel Prize in Literature. Abdulrazak Gurnah won last year for "his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents."
- On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo will give the Nobel Peace Prize to the winner. Last year, journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitri A. Muratov won for their work to protect the freedom of the press. The Swedish Academy in Stockholm will give out the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on Monday of the following week. David Card, Joshua D. Angrist, and Guido W. Imbens won the prize last year.
The Nobel Prize organization will also live-stream all of the prize announcements. In December, the prizes will be given out at a ceremony in Stockholm.