No­bel prize

Three Bri­tish-born sci­en­tists won the 2016 No­bel Prize for Physics

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Stock­holm, Swe­den

Bri­tish-born sci­en­tists David Thou­less, Dun­can Hal­dane and Michael Koster­litz were awarded this year’s No­bel Prize in physics on Tues­day for stud­ies on ex­otic mat­ter that could re­sult in im­proved ma­te­ri­als for elec­tron­ics or quan­tum com­put­ers.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sci­ences cited the three for “the­o­ret­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies of topo­log­i­cal phase tran­si­tions and topo­log­i­cal phases of mat­ter.”

Topol­ogy is the study of prop­er­ties of ob­jects that aren’t changed when the ob­jects are dis­torted. A dough­nut and a cof­fee cup are equiv­a­lent topo­log­i­cally be­cause they each have ex­actly one hole.

The academy said the lau­re­ates’ work in the 1970s and ‘80s opened the door to a pre­vi­ously un­known world where mat­ter takes un­usual states or phases.

“Their dis­cov­er­ies have brought about break­throughs in the the­o­ret­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of mat­ter’s mys­ter­ies and cre­ated new per­spec­tives on the devel­op­ment of in­no­va­tive ma­te­ri­als,” the academy said.

The judges said there is now hope that “topo­log­i­cal ma­te­ri­als will be use­ful for new gen­er­a­tions of elec­tron­ics and su­per­con­duc­tors or in fu­ture quan­tum com­put­ers,” the academy said.

No­bel judges of­ten award dis­cov­er­ies made decades ago to make sure they with­stand the test of time.

Thou­less, 82, is a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton. Hal­dane, 65, is a physics pro­fes­sor at Prince­ton Univer­sity in New Jer­sey. Koster­litz, 73, is a physics pro­fes­sor at Brown Univer­sity in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Is­land.

Speak­ing by a phone link to a news con­fer­ence in Stock­holm, Hal­dane said he was “very sur­prised and very grat­i­fied” by the award, adding the lau­re­ates stum­bled onto the dis­cov­er­ies.

“Most of the big dis­cov­er­ies are re­ally that­way,” he said. “At least in the­o­ret­i­cal things, you never set out to dis­cover some­thing new. You stum­ble on it and you have the luck to rec­og­nize what you’ve found is some­thing very in­ter­est­ing.”

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