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Trio of septuagenarians win the Nobel Prize in Physics; pioneers of the quantum world

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded on Tuesday to Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger, three pioneers of the revolutionary mechanisms of quantum physics.

The septuagenarian trio He was awarded for his discoveries about the”quantum entanglement”a mechanism in which two quantum particles are perfectly correlated, regardless of the distance between them, the jury announced in a statement.

The discovery of this amazing property paved the way for new ultra-secure quantum computing and communication technologies, as well as ultra-sensitive quantum sensors that would enable extremely precise measurements, such as gravity in space.

This puzzling mechanics was predicted by quantum theory. However, not even Albert Einstein believed it: two particles united from the beginning – as twins could be – can retain the mark of their common past and behave in a coordinated way at a distance.

Each of the laureates “conducted groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states, in which two particles behave as a unit even when separated”noted the jury.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that a new type of quantum technology is emerging.”Anders Irback, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics, said in a statement.

Aspect, Clauser et Zeilinger, who have already won the prestigious Wolf Prize together in 2010, were recognized for their advances on the work of John Stewart Bell, who in the 1960s “developed the mathematical inequality known by his name”.


– Quantum computers –


Zeilinger, a 77-year-old professor of physics at the University of Vienna, said he did not expect to be awarded. “I was very surprised to receive the call”Zeilinger told a news conference in Stockholm by telephone.

The Austrian scientist was recognized for his work with the “quantum teleportation, which makes it possible to move a quantum state from one particle to another over a distance”noted the jury.

“It’s not like in the Star Trek movies or something.”Zeilinger clarified. “The point is, using entanglement you can transfer all the information carried by an object to another site where the object is reconstituted.”.

Aspect, a 75-year-old associate professor at Paris-Saclay University, expressed his pride in joining great names in physics such as Einstein, to whom he attributed “part of the merit” of the discovery of entanglement.

Quantum mechanics is a counterintuitive science that describes the world on an extremely small scale, where things can simultaneously exist, not exist, and be somewhere in between.

Tech giants like Google are mobilizing large numbers of researchers to shape the next generation of calling. “quantum computers”whose computing power should allow you to solve problems that would otherwise be impossible.

“The first quantum revolution gave us transistors, semiconductors, computers and lasers.”Mohamed Bourennane, professor of quantum computing at Stockholm University, explained to AFP.

“But the second, based on superposition and entanglement, will allow us in the future to have quantum computers, or quantum inscriptions useful for obtaining images or sensors.”he added.

The three laureates, who will share the 10 million Swedish kronor ($901,500) prize, will receive the award from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel. who created the awards in his will.

Last year, the academy awarded Japanese American Syukuro Manabe and German Klaus Hasselmann for their research on climate models, while Italian Giorgio Parisi also won for his work on the interaction of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems.

Only four women have won the Nobel Prize in Physics, instituted in 1901: Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963), Donna Strickland (2018), and Andrea Ghez (2020).

“That reflects the unfair conditions of society, especially in past years, but which still exist”Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, told AFP last year.

The Nobel season will continue on Wednesday with the announcement of the Chemistry prize, followed by the most anticipated Literature prize on Thursday and the Peace prize on Friday.



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