Year After Research on Black Holes Won Nobel, Invisibility Cloak, Quantum Physics Tipped for Prize

Year After Research on Black Holes Won Nobel, Invisibility Cloak, Quantum Physics Tipped for Prize

Quantum physics, invisibility cloaks and a cutting-edge Italian theorist are all tipped to win Tuesday’s Nobel Physics Prize, a year after it went to pioneering research on black holes. 

The prestigious honour, to be announced at 11:45 am (0945 GMT) in Stockholm, is the second Nobel of the season after the medicine prize on Monday went to a US duo David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch. 

After giving the nod to research in the field of astronomy for the past two years, experts suggest the Nobel committee could look elsewhere this year.

France’s Alain Aspect has been mentioned for years as a potential laureate for his research into quantum entanglement, possibly with Anton Zeilinger of Austria and John Clauser of the US.

Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in which the quantum states of two or more particles or molecules share one or more properties such as spin, polarisation, or momentum.

The effect persists even if you move one of the entangled objects far away from the other, and actions performed on one affects the other.

Einstein described the theory, launched in the 1930s, as “spooky” because of the instantaneousness of the remote interaction.

In experiments conducted in France in the early 1980s, Aspect demonstrated the theory in practice for the first time, also proving Einstein partially wrong on the subject.

Nobel watchers also said physicists who paved the way for quantum computing and cryptography could also be under consideration for the prize, with Americans Charles Bennett and Peter Shor and Canada’s Gilles Brassard mentioned.

The holy grail of information technology, the quantum computer can process complex information at a mind-boggling speed and should eventually vastly outperform even the most powerful of today’s conventional computers.

Harry Potter

Meanwhile, Britain’s John Pendry would delight physicists and Harry Potter fans alike with a Nobel for what has been dubbed an “invisibility cloak”. 

He published an idea for the concept in 2006, which made use of metamaterials to bend light around an object, rendering it in effect invisible.

His original idea has spread to many more applications, ranging from acoustic cloaking to cloaking buildings from earthquakes.

According to specialised institute Clarivate, which publishes a list of Nobel-worthy research each year, the Nobel could also go to Italian theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi for his “revolutionary discoveries relating to quantum chromodynamics and the study of complex disordered systems”.

“A lot of things that are difficult to understand for mere mortals,” as Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter summed things up.

Last year, the physics prize went to Roger Penrose of Britain, Reinhard Genzel of Germany and Andrea Ghez of the US, three pioneers in the field of black holes, from which nothing, not even light, can escape.

If the committee were to again honour work in space, Mexican-British researcher Carlos Frenk, Canadian-Argentinian Julio Navarro and German-Briton Simon White were seen as possibilities for their research into the formation and evolution of galaxies, cosmic structures and dark matter halos.

Covid-19 vaccine research

The medicine prize kicked off the 2021 Nobel season on Monday, going to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for breakthroughs that paved the way for the treatment of chronic pain.

Hungary’s Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman of the US — who pioneered the technology behind the mRNA vaccines against Covid-19 and who were among the favourites for Monday’s medicine prize — could have a shot at the chemistry prize announced on Wednesday.

The two most closely watched prizes, for literature and peace, will follow on Thursday and Friday. 

For literature, it remains to be seen whether the Swedish Academy will fulfil its promise of greater diversity by picking a non-Westerner for the first time in a decade.

As for peace, the field appears wide open this year, with organisations defending the freedom of the press, Belarus opposition leaders and climate campaigners all seen as possible winners.

The economics prize will wrap things up on Monday, October 11.

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