Serge Haroche, David Wineland win 2012
Nobel Prize for Physics
Stockholm: Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the US won the NobelPrize on Tuesday for work in quantum
physics that could one day open the way to revolutionary computers.
The pair were honoured for pioneering optical experiments in “measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems,” the Nobel Physics jury said in its
“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.”
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, 68, said the award was “fairly
“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 realized.”
“I think we will have champagne,” he
The two scientists specialise in quantum
entanglement, a phenomenon of particle
physics that has been proven by
experiments but remains poorly
When two particles interact, they become
“entangled,” which means one particle
affects the other at a distance. The
connection lasts long after they are
In entanglement, particles also go into a
state called superposition, which opens the
way to a hoped-for supercomputers.
Today’s computers use a binary code, in
which data is stored in a bit that could be
either zero or 1.
But in superposition, a quantum bit,
known as a qubit, could be either zero or
one, or both zero and one at the same
This potentially offers a massive increase
in data storage, greatly helping number-
crunching tasks such as running climate-
change models and breaking encrypted
But many technical hurdles remain to be
Haroche and Wineland’s achievement has
been to measure and control these very
fragile quantum states, which were
previously deemed inaccessible, so that the
particles can be observed and counted, the
Haroche is a professor at College de
France and Ecole Normale Superieure in
Paris, while Wineland, 68, is a group
leader at the National Institute of
Standards and Technology and the
University of Colorado in Boulder,
On Monday, Shinya Yamanaka of Japan
and John Gurdon of Britain won the Nobel
Medicine Prize for work in cell
programming, a frontier that has raised
dreams of replacement tissue for people
crippled by disease.
The Nobel prize announcements continue
on Wednesday with the announcement of
the chemistry prize, followed by the
literature prize on Thursday.
Perhaps the most-watched award, for
peace, will be announced Friday and the
economics prize will wind up the Nobel
season on October 15.
The laureates will receive their prizes at
formal ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo
on December 10, the anniversary of prize
founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.
The Nobel Foundation has slashed its prize
sum to eight million Swedish kronor ($1.2
million, 930,000 euros) per award, from
the 10 million kronor awarded since 2001,
due to the economic crisis.