Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US, German scientists win Nobel for physics

BREAKTHROUGH The physicists' parallel work will greatly increase the accuracy of lasers, which will allow for more exact clocks and GPS devices


US scientist John Hall and Roy Glauber and German Theodor Haensch won this year's Nobel Prize in physics yesterday for their work in advancing the precision of optic technology that could lead to clear long-distance communication worldwide and beyond.

The prize was given for the trio's separate, yet similar work in advancing optic technology to make lasers, GPS technology and other methods more accurate and concise in their readings.

Hall, 71, of the University of Colorado, and Haensch, 63, of the Ludwig-Maximilian-Universitaet in Munich, won "for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique" while Glauber, 80, of Harvard, won for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence.

Hall and Haensch will split the 10 million kronor (US$1.3 million) prize with Glauber.

Speaking from his office in Munich, Haensch called the award a high point of his career.

"I was speechless but of course very happy, exuberant," he said. "Now, I am trying to get used to this."

He said the fruits of the trio's work could eventually be applied to making communication across the globe -- and beyond the earth -- more feasible and make the frequencies that carry radio waves, cellphone calls and data more precise.

"Eventually, we may be able to enjoy three-dimensional holographic movies," he said.

Glauber's theories helped explain the behavior of light particles, while Hall and Haensch were able to determine the frequency of light with extreme precision, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

"The important contributions by John Hall and Theodor Haensch have made it possible to measure frequencies with an accuracy of 15 digits," the academy added. "Lasers with extremely sharp colors can now be constructed and with the frequency comb technique precise readings can be made of light of all colors."

"This technique makes it possible to carry out studies of, for example, the stability of the constants of nature over time and to develop extremely accurate clocks and improved GPS technology," the academy said.

Of the six Nobels, the physics prize has perhaps the broadest scope of research, making speculation ahead of the announcement difficult.

Alfred Nobel, the wealthy Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite who endowed the prizes, left only vague guidelines for the selection committee, saying in his will that the prize should be given to those who "shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind" and "shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics."

In the past decade, winning physics discoveries have ranged from explaining the makeup of faraway galaxies to creating high-speed electronics that led to breakthroughs in how information is transmitted worldwide at superfast speeds.

Last year's prize was given to the US' David Gross, David Politzer and Frank Wilczeck for their explanation of the force that binds particles inside an atomic nucleus.

The prizes include a check for US$1.3 million, and will be awarded by Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

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