After the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology was awarded yesterday to the Swedish biologist Svante Pääbo “for discoveries related to the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution”, today it was the turn of the Nobel Prize in Physics. The winners have been Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger who have carried out innovative experiments with entangled quantum states , in which two particles behave as a single unit even when they are separated. Their results have paved the way for a new technology based on quantum information.
The effects of quantum mechanics in which two or more particles exist and what happens to one ends up happening to the other, no matter how far apart they may be , have opened up an enormous field of possibilities, including quantum computers, quantum networks and secure quantum encrypted communication.
For a long time, this correlation between particles was questioned. Specifically, the idea was considered that the correlation was due to the fact that the particles of an entangled pair contained hidden variables, instructions that tell them what result they should give in an experiment.
In the 1960s, John Stewart Bell developed the mathematical inequality that bears his name. According to this, if there are hidden variables, the correlation between the results of a large number of measurements will never exceed a certain value. However, quantum mechanics predicts that a certain type of experiment will violate Bell’s inequality , leading to a stronger correlation than would be possible otherwise.
Clauser, Aspect and Zeilinger have carried out experiments developing Bell’s ideas, proving that quantum mechanics cannot be replaced by a theory that uses hidden variables. Zeilinger and his research group have demonstrated a phenomenon known as quantum teleportation , which allows a quantum state of one particle to be moved to another at a distance.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that a new type of quantum technology is emerging. We can see that the work of the entangled state laureates is of great importance, even beyond fundamental questions about the interpretation of quantum mechanics,” he says. Anders Irbäck, Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics.
Curiosities about the Nobel Prize in Physics
Did you know that between 1901 and 2021, 115 Nobel Prizes in Physics have been awarded and that 47 people have won it in a personal capacity, without sharing it with anyone else? Do you know how many women have won the Nobel in this category? Specifically four. The first was Marie Curie in 1903 , who in 1911 won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the second, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963, the third, Donna Strickland in 2018, and the fourth, Andrea Ghez in 2020.
Only one person, John Bardeen, has won the Nobel Prize for Physics twice. Amazing! Among the best-known laureates is Albert Einstein, who won it in 1921, not for his theory of relativity but for his explanations of the photoelectric effect and his numerous contributions to theoretical physics.
Do you know the youngest laureate in this category? It was Lawrence Bragg, who shared the award with his father when he was just 25 years old . Can you tell who was the oldest laureate? It was Arthur Ashkin, who took the award at the age of 96.
The Nobel Prize in Physics medal was designed by the Swedish sculptor and engraver Erik Lindberg and depicts Nature in the form of a goddess resembling Isis, emerging from the clouds and holding a cornucopia in her arms. The veil that covers her face is held by the Genius of Science.
How much is the amount of the Nobel Prize in Physics? This year 2022, winning a Nobel in any of the existing categories means pocketing 10 million Swedish crowns to be distributed among the winner or winners of the award. The winners will never be more than three.