Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry 2022: from quantum teleportation, to the ‘Minecraft’ of chemistry

The Nobel Prizes of Physics and Chemistry of 2022 They have already been delivered and in this edition, the winners have made, like every year, a great contribution in some branch of their science. In the corner of Physics: entanglement and quantum communication. In Chemistry: “click chemistry” and bioorthogonal reactions.

In Xataka Mexico, we tell you about these achievements and phenomena, as well as the contribution of each winner. There are contradictions to Einstein, the Minecraft of chemistry and lots of science.

Spooky remote actions

Among the physics community, it is known that one of the “terrors” of Albert Einstein was the quantum, and that is not strange at all. quantum mechanics is a counter-intuitive branch, requires strange mathematical notation, and is often very, very confusing.

That is why when Einstein called the quantum entanglement as a series of “spooky actions at a distance”, his reaction was that of almost any sensible person, I can imagine him thinking: “Nope, how is it going to be, man”.

One of the most popular and interesting quantum phenomena is precisely quantum entanglement. Under this action, two particles, let’s call them Elina and Bibble, are connected to each other, are a solid medium between them, at distances more than enormous for subatomic scales. When you are bound, when you change any property of Elina, you also change Bibble.

Albert Einstein thought that this could not happen without “hidden variables” from the real world. However, there is a kind of statistic that derives in the amount of hidden variables that would need to exist to allow the actions of quantum entanglement, and this would end up contradicting the father’s theory of Relativity.

During 1964, an Irish physicist named John Bell discovered that there are an inherent conflict between the Quantum Theory and the existence of hidden variables. Bell found a way to test when the reason for any of these “spooky actions at a distance” was due to the hidden variables that the German physicist was talking about. These tests were called Bell’s inequalities.

quantum 1

Now, in 2022, 58 years after Bell Inequalities, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Norwegian Nobel Committee have awarded the distinguished Nobel Prize in Physics to physicists Anton Zeilinger, Alain Aspect Y John Clauser.

One problem, three fronts

Nobel Physics

John Clauser was the first to develop a practical experiment to measure quantum entanglement, back in 1969. It was not until 1972 that he was able to achieve a measurement in which it was determined that a pair of photons “switched” simultaneously despite the distance among them. This took a first step in proving that no such hidden variables existed.

Nearly a decade later, Alain Aspect and his team managed to make a pair of photons change “their direction,” or spin, in just a few billionths of a second. This ensured that communication between the particles, even if the information was traveling at the speed of light. It could only happen one way, by quantum entanglement.

And by the end of the 20th century, in 1997, Anton Zeilinger Together with his collaborators, they were part of the teams that demonstrated the existence of quantum teleportation in which quantum states can be transferred from one particle to another, over great distances. This phenomenon is only possible thanks to quantum entanglement.


Chinese Satellite Micius | It uses quantum communication, it is the first of its kind

On top of that, Zeilinger himself worked with the developers of the Chinese Micius, the first space satellite containing quantum communications. That is just one of the possible applications that these spooky remote actions can have, since they are also the touchstone of advances such as quantum computing or quantum cryptography.

Although it seems strange, these bombastic applications of the quantum are not his only virtues. The very use of lasers, arrays of millions of transistors in GPUs (such as those in NVIDIA’s new Ada Lovelace chip) to photovoltaic cells, are only part of the benefits that quantum physics has brought us.

A catalyst for chemistry

Advances in chemistry are not only a matter of great discoveries, the tools that drive the search for these are also important. higlights in Chemistry. That is why for this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, they selected Click Chemistry and bioorthogonal reactions as the winners.

Chemical Click Cropped

Click chemistry is a new way of doing chemistry where you can produce substances relatively quickly and reliably by linking unit blocks together. A very crude way of explaining this would be that they are like Minecraft blocks or chemical LEGO pieces that are put together to create compounds.

This mechanism allows arbitrary binding of substrates, with its necessary biomolecules. Click reactions have proven their worth in experiments to isolate particular targets, called pull-downs, or in fluorescence spectrometry.

Two new to the list and an old acquaintance

Nobel Chemistry

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Morten Meldal, Carolyn Bertozzi Y Barry Sharpless.

In the case of Sharpless, he is the founder of this new way of doing chemistry. Together with Morten Meldal, they have placed the pillars on which Clic Chemistry stands. On her side, American chemist Carolyn Bertozzi has taken this branch to a new level by beginning to use it in living organisms.

Until this year, there were only four scientists who could boast a double Nobel Prize in their showcases: Marie Curie, Frederick Sanger, Linus Pauling and John Bardeen. But with the new award from Barry Sharpless, there are now five figures who hold this great achievement by also winning it for their work in the stereoselective reactions.

Rosalind Franklin in time magazine

For her part, Carolyn Bertozzi joins a small group of women that adds up to just six dozen, compared to the 891 men who have won it. This generates an inequality in which only the 6.3% of the prizes have been awarded to women. Historically, women have been an oppressed sector in all areas of humanity, but it is undeniable that in technology and science they have been more so than normal.

It is documented how important discoveries such as the double helix of human genes, which earned Francis Crick and James Watson a Nobel Prize, forgot an important scientist, rosalind franklin. This English crystallographer and chemist played a vital role in the calculations of this discovery.

So it is always good to have a little more awareness in this regard, perhaps it is an ideal world, this problem would not be as big as it has been historically. That Madame Curie having two Nobel Prizes does not mean that this has not happened, rather Curie was so undeniably good that they could not cover her brilliance in any way.

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Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry 2022: from quantum teleportation, to the ‘Minecraft’ of chemistry