The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics was just awarded for ‘tools made of light’

Physics

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded Tuesday to Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland for their pioneering work to turn lasers into powerful tools.

Ashkin, a researcher at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, invented “optical tweezers” – focused beams of light that can be used to grab particles, atoms and even living cells and are now widely used to study the machinery of life.

Mourou, of École Polytechnique in France and the University of Michigan, and Strickland, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, “paved the way” for the most intense laser beams ever created by humans via a technique that stretches and then amplifies the light beam.

“Billions of people make daily use of optical disk drive, laser printers and optical scanners, millions undergo laser surgery,” said Nobel committee member Olga Botner.

“The laser is truly one of the many examples of how a so called blue sky discovery in a fundamental science eventually may transform our daily lives.”

Strickland is the first woman to win the physics prize since 1963, when Maria Goeppert-Mayer was recognized for her work on the structure of nuclei.

A reporter asked the professor what it felt like to be the third woman in history to win the physics prize.

“Really? Is that all? I thought there might have been more,” Strickland responded, sounding surprised.

“Obviously we need to celebrate woman physicists because we’re out there. I don’t know what to say. I’m honored to be one of those women.”

2018 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

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