Nobel Physics Prize for tiny light pulses that capture changes in atoms winners

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Scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for creating incredibly short pulses of light that can capture processes inside atoms and molecules, in work that could advance medical diagnostics and electronics.


According to the Nobel Academy, their research has provided humans with advanced methods to investigate the motion of electrons within atoms. These changes happen within a fraction of an attosecond, which is an incredibly brief unit of time – there are as many attoseconds in one second as there have been seconds since the beginning of the universe.


The prize, raised this year to 11 million Swedish crowns (about $1 million ($1 = 11.0129 Swedish crowns)), is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


“The ability to generate attosecond pulses of light has opened the door on a tiny, extremely tiny, time scale and it’s also opened the door to the world of electrons,” said Eva Olsson, a Nobel Prize in Physics Selection Committee member.


It was once thought that these electron changes could not be seen, but the use of attosecond pulses has changed this, she added.


In an example of possible applications, the field held promise in areas such as a new in-vitro diagnostic technique to detect characteristic molecular traces of diseases in blood samples, the academy said.


Agostini and L’Hullier, both French-born though they work in the United States and Sweden respectively, were quickly congratulated by Sylvie Retailleau, France’s minister of Higher Education, who said they were a “great source of pride”.

L’Huillier, who received word she had won the prize in the middle of a lecture, told a news conference over the phone, “It is really a prestigious prize and I’m so happy to get it. It’s incredible.” She works at Lund University in Sweden and Agostini is a professor at Ohio State University in the United States.


Hungarian-born Krausz is the director at Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany.


The Nobel Prize in Physics has recently been awarded to an outstanding scientist, making it the second Nobel Prize to be given out this week. The first prize was awarded to Hungarian scientist Katalin Kariko and her US colleague Drew Weissman for their groundbreaking discoveries in mRNA molecules, which paved the way for the development of COVID-19 vaccines. 


The Nobel Prizes were established as part of the will of the renowned dynamite inventor and businessman, Alfred Nobel. Since 1901, the prizes have been awarded for exceptional achievements in various fields, including science, literature, and peace. These prizes are widely regarded as the highest honor bestowed upon outstanding individuals in these fields. 


Although the Nobel Peace Prize often receives the most attention, the Nobel Prize in Physics is also highly coveted by scientists around the world. This prize has been awarded to many renowned scientists, including Albert Einstein, for their groundbreaking work that has fundamentally altered our understanding of the world. 


In the previous year, the prize was awarded to Alain Aspect, John Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for their work on quantum entanglement, a phenomenon in which two particles can remain linked regardless of the distance between them. This discovery unsettled even Einstein himself, who referred to it as “spooky action at a distance.” 


The announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics is just one of the many announcements that will be made in early October. Other prizes include those for chemistry, literature, peace, and economics, which were added to the original line-up later on.

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