(Anthony Grayling pointed out to me that all three recipients, though working in America, were actually born in Britain, so I have corrected the earlier headline characterizing them as “Americans”).
The Nobel Prize organization announced this morning that the Big Prize for Physics has been awarded to three scientists, all born in Britain but working in the U.S.. One recipient got half the prize, and the other two received a quarter each, which I presume means 25% of the dosh rather than 1/4 of the medal! To wit (I’ve added the pictures below each name):
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 with one half to?
David J. Thouless
University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
and the other half to
F. Duncan M. Haldane
Princeton University, NJ, USA
J. Michael Kosterlitz
Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
”for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”
And the description of the prize-winning work:
The three Laureates’ use of topological concepts in physics was decisive for their discoveries. Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties that only change step-wise. Using topology as a tool, they were able to astound the experts. In the early 1970s, Michael Kosterlitz and David Thouless overturned the then current theory that superconductivity or suprafluidity could not occur in thin layers. They demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures.
In the 1980s, Thouless was able to explain a previous experiment with very thin electrically conducting layers in which conductance was precisely measured as integer steps. He showed that these integers were topological in their nature. At around the same time, Duncan Haldane discovered how topological concepts can be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials.
We now know of many topological phases, not only in thin layers and threads, but also in ordinary three-dimensional materials. Over the last decade, this area has boosted frontline research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers. Current research is revealing the secrets of matter in the exotic worlds discovered by this year’s Nobel Laureates.
Not a single reader guessed any winner of the Physics Prize in yesterday’s contest (many thought it would go to those who detected gravitational waves, and it eventually will), but you can still win by guessing the winner for literature. The Literature prize is always a tough one, so we’ll see very soon if we have a winner.