‘Scary’ Quantum Science Detectives Win Nobel Prize in Physics

  • Winners paved the way for powerful new quantum technologies
  • The discoveries have enabled work on quantum computers, encryption
  • The search for the winners is based on “mind-blowing” information
  • Zeilinger ‘shocked but very positive’ on hearing the news
  • Scientists shed light on the behavior of subatomic particles

STOCKHOLM, Oct 4 (Reuters) – Scientists Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger have won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for experiments in quantum mechanics that laid the groundwork for rapidly developing new applications in computing and cryptography.

“Their results paved the way for a new technology based on quantum information,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said of the winners – Aspect, who is French, Clauser, an American and Zeilinger, an Austrian.

Scientists have all conducted experiments in quantum entanglement, where two particles are linked regardless of the space between them, a field that destabilized Albert Einstein himself, who once called it in a letter d “remote spooky action”.

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“I’m very happy…I started this job in 1969 and I’m happy to still be alive so I can get the award,” Clauser, 79, told Reuters by phone from his home in Walnut Creek, New York. California. .

Clauser, who worked at institutions such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, during his career, said he had witnessed his initial work snowball into much larger experiments. vast.

China’s Micius satellite, part of a quantum physics research project, was built in part on his findings, he said.

“The satellite and ground station setup is nearly identical to my original experiment. Mine was about 30 feet long, theirs is thousands of miles away for quantum communication.”

When asked to explain his work in layman’s terms, he joked that he doesn’t understand it himself, but added that the interactions he describes permeate almost everything.

“Probably every particle in the universe is entangled with every other particle,” Clauser said with a laugh.


French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted his congratulations to the winners, adding “Einstein himself did not believe in quantum entanglement! Today, the promises of quantum computing rest on this phenomenon.”

Aspect, a professor at the University of Paris-Saclay and the Ecole Polytechnique de Palaiseau, near Paris, said he was happy that his work had helped settle the debate between Einstein, who was skeptical of quantum physics, and Niels Bohr, one of the domain’s fathers. Both have won Nobel Prizes in Physics.

“Quantum physics, which has been a fantastic field on the agenda for more than a century, still offers a lot of mysteries to be uncovered,” Aspect, 75, told reporters.

“This award anticipates today what quantum technologies will be one day.”

Zeilinger, 77, a professor emeritus at the University of Vienna, told a press conference by telephone after hearing the news that he was “shocked, but very positive”.

In an interview after receiving an honorary doctorate earlier this year, Zeilinger said secure quantum communication over potentially thousands of miles via cables or satellites would soon be on the cards.

“It is quite clear that in the near future we will have quantum communication all over the world,” he said at the time.

Quantum physics is the study of matter and energy at a subatomic level involving the smallest building blocks of nature, a field governed by laws at odds with those of classical Newtonian physics used in fields such as movements of celestial objects.

In background papers explaining the award, the academy said the winners’ work involves “the mind-boggling idea that quantum mechanics allows a single quantum system to be split into parts that are separate from each other but still act as one. unity. “

“It goes against all the usual ideas about cause and effect and the nature of reality.”


The laureates explored in groundbreaking experiments how two or more photons, or particles of light, which are “entangled” because they come from the same laser beam, interact even when they are far apart.

Sean Carroll, a professor of natural philosophy at Johns Hopkins University and author of books on topics including quantum mechanics, told Reuters the trio prize was long overdue.

“Even though the … experimental techniques that these people have developed may not be directly applicable, they lay the groundwork for using quantum entanglement as a technological resource,” he said.

The more than 100-year-old prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($902,315), is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Physics is the second Nobel Prize to be awarded this week after Swedish geneticist Svante Paabo won the physiology or medicine prize on Monday.

The Physics Prize has often taken center stage among awards, featuring household names in science such as Einstein, Bohr and Max Planck, and rewarding breakthroughs that have reshaped the way we see the world.

($1 = 11.0826 Swedish kronor)

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Reporting by Niklas Pollard, Simon Johnson and Johan Ahlander in Stockholm, Jonathan Allen in New York and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; additional reporting by Terje Solsvik in Oslo, Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm, Geert De Clercq in Paris and Marie Mannes in Gdansk; Editing by William Maclean and Nick Zieminski

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