Laser scientists win 2018 Nobel Physics Prize


Laser scientists win 2018 Nobel Physics Prize

Arthur Ashkin of Bell Laboratories in the United States won half of the 2018 prize for inventing "optical tweezers", while Strickland shared the remainder with Frenchman Gerard Mourou, who also has U.S. citizenship, for work on high-intensity lasers.

Half of the prize money - worth nine million Swedish kronor ($1m or £770,000) - will go to Arthur Ashkin, a retired physicist who was the first to invent "optical tweezers" whilst working at Bell Labs.

Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences, which chose the winners, said the trio realized "an old dream of science fiction - using the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects".

Strickland and Mourou helped develop short and intense laser pulses that can be used medically, including laser eye surgery. A major breakthrough came in 1987 when Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them, the Academy noted.

The Chirped Pulse Amplification Technique, first laid out in a 1985 article, was described by the academy as "generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses", which have become a critical part of corrective eye surgeries amongst other uses.

The last Nobel Prize for Physics awarded to a woman was almost 55 years ago, which was in 1963 to Maria Goeppert Mayer who was accorded a share of the prize for her discoveries around how protons and neutrons are arranged in the nucleus of atoms. "I'm honored to be one of those women".

Born in Guelph, Ontario, Strickland earned a Bachelor of Engineering Physics from McMaster University and later a PhD Physics from the University of Rochester in NY.

Ashkin said Tuesday that he had thought his research was worthy of one of the world's most prestigious prizes but figured his time had passed.

While the Nobel chemistry prize will be announced on Wednesday, the peace prize will be announced on Friday.

At the age of 96, Ashkin is the oldest person to ever receive a Nobel Prize.

In essence it involves taking a short laser pulse, stretching it in time to reduce the peak power, amplifying it and squeezing it together again.

Jessica Wade, a physicist at Imperial College London who was at the CERN event and unhappy about Strumia's comments, said having a female Nobel victor was also important given the current fight over US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is facing sexual misconduct allegations.

When the pair refined the technique, Strickland recalled Mourou's advice to talk up their accomplishment and tell their peers that the gigawatt laser they had developed would lay the groundwork for devices a million times more powerful down the road.

Prof Ashkin told the Nobel committee that he may not be able to give any interviews because "he is very busy with his latest paper".

Strickland spoke briefly about the lack of women physics winners in a telephone call with the academy.

She studied optics at the University of Rochester, in NY state, working towards her PhD under Mr Mourou.

"Ultra-sharp laser beams make it possible to cut or drill holes in various materials extremely precisely - even in living matter", the Nobel Prize twitter account noted.

The man at the centre of a sex-abuse and financial crimes scandal that is tarnishing the academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature was convicted of rape and sentenced to two years in prison on Monday.



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