- BBC News World
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics has gone to three scientists who have specialized in quantum mechanics, the science that describes the behavior of subatomic particles; that is, physics at the smallest possible scales.
The prize went to the Frenchman Alain Aspect, the American John Clauser and the Austrian Anton Zeilinger.
His work could pave the way for a new generation of powerful computers and telecommunications systems impossible to hack.
This year’s three laureates have carried out innovative experiments using entangled quantum states, in which two subatomic particles behave as a single unit even when separated.
“Quantum information science is a vibrant field and rapidly developing,” said Eva Olsson, a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics. “It has broad and potential implications in areas such as secure information transfer, quantum computing and sensing technology.”
Quantum mechanics describes the behavior of subatomic particles. It is a field of research that began at the beginning of the 20th century.
One of the areas of quantum mechanics is “entanglement,” in which two or more quantum particles – usually photons, the particles of light – can stay strongly connected when they are far apart and without being physically connected.
Your shared state can be your energy or your spin. This is a strange phenomenon that Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”.
The theoretical basis was developed in the 1960s by the Northern Irish physicist John Stewart Bell. But it was Aspect, Clauser, and Zeilinger who performed the experiments that showon that the phenomenon was real and could have practical uses.
“I have always been interested in quantum mechanics from the first moment I read about it,” Zeilinger told the BBC.
“And I was very impressed by some of the theoretical predictions, because did not fit the usual intuitions that one can have”, pointed out the winner.
Entanglement research is gaining a lot of attention in two areas. One of them is that of quantum computers, for which they promise a great leap in the capacity of machines to solve complex problems.
And the other is cryptography, the secure encoding of information, which would make it impossible for a third party to eavesdrop on private communications.
“This is useful for the military and the banks, etc., in secure communications,” Clauser said.
“The biggest application I know of has been from the Chinese, who launched a satellite several years ago that they use for secure communications over thousands of miles,” he added.
Professor Tim Spiller of the University of York, UK, said Tuesday’s laureates were worthy winners, helping to open up an exciting future.
“Quantum technologies have been heavily investigated in the UK and many other countries in the last 10 years. We’ve known about the mess for a long time, but the investment has been made in the last 10 years. And now there’s one or two products emerging purchasable commercials that use various aspects of this quantum feature, and we hope there will be many more to come“, he claimed.
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Nobel Prize in Physics 2022: what is quantum entanglement and how can it revolutionize computing?