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STOCKHOLM: Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the US won the Nobel Prize yesterday for work in quantum physics that could one day open the way to revolutionary computers.
The pair, both 68, were honoured for pioneering optical experiments in “measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems,” the Nobel Physics jury said in its citation.
“Their groundbreaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of super-fast computer based on quantum physics,” it said.
“Perhaps the quantum computer will change our everyday lives in this century in the same radical way as the classical computer did in the last century.”
Wineland cautioned yesterday such a super-computer was “a long, long way” off.
“I think many of us feel that it will eventually happen,” he said in a pre-dawn phone interview recorded and posted on the Nobel committee website.
The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time, with more than hundred-fold greater precision than present-day caesium clocks, it said.
Haroche said the award was “fairly overwhelming.” “I was in the street, passing near a bench, and was able to sit down immediately,” he told journalists via a live link to Stockholm.
“I was walking with my wife, when I saw the Swedish area code, I realised.”
Wineland said he was wakened in the middle of the night at his home in Boulder, Colorado with a phone call from the committee in Stockholm.
“I was sleeping and my wife got the call and woke me up,” he said, adding that it was “a wonderful surprise, of course.”
French President Francois Hollande praised Haroche for his win, calling it a “source of pride for our country.”
The two scientists specialise in quantum entanglement, a phenomenon of particle physics that has been proven by experiments but remains poorly understood.
When two particles interact, they become “entangled,” which means one particle affects the other at a distance. The connection lasts long after they are separated.