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Scientists Win Nobel in Physics for Work on Quantum Science

By Bryan Lynn
04 October 2022

Three scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in the field of quantum information science.

The Stockholm-based Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners Tuesday. The Nobel recipients are Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John F. Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger.

The scientists all carried out experiments in a field known as quantum entanglement. It considers how unseen particles can be linked or "entangled" with each other even when they are separated by large distances. Such particles could include photons or microscopic pieces of matter.

The field has long been studied by physicists. Albert Einstein once described quantum entanglement as "spooky action at a distance."

The Nobel committee said the 79-year-old Clauser developed quantum theories from the 1960s into an experiment. It said Aspect, a 75-year-old, was able to close a loophole in those theories. And, 77-year-old Zeilinger, the committee said, demonstrated methods in quantum teleportation that showed that information could be effectively sent over distances.

The experiments carried out by Clauser helped settle a famous debate about quantum mechanics between Einstein and famed physicist Niels Bohr. The debate centered on elements in the universe that connect matter and light in entangled ways.

Clauser spoke to The Associated Press about his work. "I was betting on Einstein. But unfortunately I was wrong and Einstein was wrong and Bohr was right." Clauser added, "Being a little bit entangled is sort of like being a little bit pregnant - the effect grows on you."

Clauser said his work demonstrated that information cannot be enclosed in a fixed space, even though he does not fully understand why. "Most people would assume that nature is made out of stuff distributed throughout space and time," Clauser said. "And that appears not to be the case."

Eva Olsson is a member of the Nobel committee. She said the study of quantum information should not be seen as just a theoretical thought experiment. Instead, she called it a "vibrant and developing field." Vibrant means lively or energetic.

Olsson added that the field offers wide possibilities in areas such as securing information and communication, quantum computing and sensing technology. "Its predictions have opened doors to another world, and it has also shaken the very foundations of how we interpret measurements."

Speaking by phone to a news conference after the announcement, Zeilinger said he was "kind of shocked" at hearing he had received the award. "But it's a very positive shock," he said.

There had been talk over the past 10 years that Clauser, Aspect, and Zeilinger were under consideration for a Nobel. In 2010, the three won the Wolf Prize in Israel. That prize is traditionally seen as a possible predictor of Nobel winners.

The Nobel prizes come with a money award of nearly $900,000. They will be officially handed out during a ceremony in December.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

entangle v. to cause something to be caught in something

spooky adj. strange or frightening

loophole n. a means of escape

bet v. to risk money on the result of a game, competition, etc.

assume v. to think something is likely to be true, even though there is no proof

distribute v. to give or send something out

foundation n. the idea or principle something is based on

interpret v. to explain or decide what something means

positive adj. feeling hopeful and happy about something

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