The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to UK scientists David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz for “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.”
The winners will receive 8 million Swedish kronor ($940,000) for their efforts, along with the prestige that comes from being awarded such a prize.
Half of the prize was awarded to Thouless, a condensed-matter physicist at the University of Washington. The other half was shared between Haldane, a physicist at Princeton University, and Kosterlitz, a physicist at Brown University. A statement issued by the committee noted that they had “revealed the secrets of exotic matter,” a smorgasbord of hypothetical and incredibly bizarre particles.
The work, which falls under the category of theoretical physics, was described by members of the Nobel committee as “very deep and very beautiful work.” In a short presentation, the Nobel Prize winners were described as having conceived of some “beautiful mathematics and profound insights into physics,” adding that the field of quantum computers will greatly benefit from this discovery.
In a slightly bizarre ceremony, the theory of topology was described using the lunch of one of the panel members. Using bagels and pretzels, he explained that the Nobel laureates could describe the intricacies of internal structures of various states of matter better than anyone else to date.
A thorough understanding of the states of matter is vital for comprehending the world around us. Many segments of engineering and computing, in particular, would be lost without such monumental theories.
“As everyone else is, I was very surprised and very gratified,” Professor Haldane told the gathered audience of reporters and scientists by phone. “It’s only now that a lot of tremendous discoveries which are based on this tremendous work are now happening.”
When asked about the implications of his and his fellow prize-winners’ research, he said that the work “taught us that quantum mechanics can behave far more strangely than we could have guessed, and these discoveries by myself and others show that we have a long way to go to discover what’s possible.”
“At the time, the theory seemed very abstract,” he added. “A lot of these things were those that many would not initially have dreamed were possible.”
Quantum computing relies heavily on our comprehension of strange and unusual states of matter, and many describe the field as one that, if realized in practice, will bring about a technological revolution the likes of which the world has never seen. This prize recognizes work that paves the way towards this future renaissance.
To watch the announcement of the Chemistry award tomorrow morning, around 10:45am BST, you can tune in via official Nobel Award channels here.
The Nobel Prize in Physics announcement ceremony. Nobel Prize via YouTube