Nobel for quantum "parlour trick" that could make super computers

Tue Oct 9, 2012 3:48pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Niklas Pollard and Anna Ringstrom

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A French and an American scientist won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for finding ways to measure quantum particles without destroying them, which could make it possible to build a new kind of computer far more powerful than any seen before.

Serge Haroche of France and American David Wineland, both 68, found ways to manipulate the very smallest particles of matter and light to observe strange behavior that previously could only be imagined in equations and thought experiments.

Wineland once described his own work as a "parlour trick" that performed the seemingly magical feat of putting an object in two places at once. Other scientists praised the achievements as bringing to life the wildest dreams of science fiction.

"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," said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awarded them the 8 million crown ($1.2 million) prize.

"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."

Haroche said he was walking in the street with his wife when he recognized the Swedish country code on the incoming call to inform him of the award.

"I saw the area code 46, then I sat down," he told reporters in Sweden by telephone. "First I called my children, then I called my closest colleagues, without whom I would never have won this prize," he said. Asked how he would celebrate, he said: "I will have champagne, of course."

He told Reuters he hoped the prize would give him a platform "that will allow me to communicate ideas, not just in this field of research but for research in general, fundamental research".   Continued...

 
Handout pictures of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics laureates Serge Haroche (L) of France and David Wineland of the U.S. seen during a news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science in Stockholm, October 9, 2012. REUTERS/Scanpix