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Nobel Prize for physics goes to a fed

Oct. 10, 2012 - 10:38AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
An undated handout picture released in Washington by the National Institute of Standards and Technology shows physicist David Wineland. He and Serge Haroche of France won the Nobel Prize on Oct. 9 for work in quantum physics that could one day open the way to revolutionary computers.
An undated handout picture released in Washington by the National Institute of Standards and Technology shows physicist David Wineland. He and Serge Haroche of France won the Nobel Prize on Oct. 9 for work in quantum physics that could one day open the way to revolutionary computers. (National Institute of Standards and Technology via)

David Wineland, a scientist at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, is a co-winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for physics.

Wineland, a 37-year NIST employee now at the agency’s laboratories in Boulder, Colo., was honored Tuesday for his achievements in quantum mechanics, a branch of physics that deals with subatomic particles. He shares the award, which includes $1.2 million in prize money, with French physicist Serge Haroche, who works independently in the same field.

“Through their ingenious laboratory methods, Haroche and Wineland, together with their research groups, have managed to measure and control very fragile quantum states, which were previously thought inaccessible to direct observation,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a release announcing the award. “The new methods allow them to examine, control and count the particles.”

Wineland, who also holds a lecturership at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the fourth NIST researcher to receive a Nobel since 1997. His work helps foster construction of better atomic clocks and is also “paving the way” for quantum computers far more powerful than what is available today, Thomas O’Brian, chief of NIST’s time and frequency division, said at a Tuesday news conference.

The prize is “a richly deserved celebration of work that’s at the forefront not only of science, but of our measurement mission here at NIST,” the institute’s director, Patrick Gallagher, said at the same event. “It’s also a celebration of decades of hard experimental work that has really paid rich dividends.”

Wineland said Tuesday he plans to continue his work as a NIST fellow. He will formally receive the award at a Dec. 10 ceremony in Stockholm.

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