Nobel prize to Serge Haroche and David Wineland


This year Nobel prize went to quantum optics for experiments that could be useful on the road to quantum computation. The awarded are Serge Haroche of the College de France and David Wineland from NIST (US). They performed groundbreaking  studies working with cavities and ion traps on single atoms and photons. I have had the luck to meet and hear from them at several conferences. Their work was also instrumental in moving environmental decoherence from a theoretical concept to an everyday fact of life. There have been some rumors about the possibility that this year’s prize could go to this area of investigation. I would like to remember that for the recent finding at CERN is somehow too early for a prize both for the way procedures go at the Royal Swedish Academy and also because the very nature of the just discovered particle is yet to be ascertained.

Kao, Boyle and Smith


Charles K. KaoWillard S. Boyle and George E. Smith are the winners of the 2009 Nobel prize in physics. Kao will take 1/2 of the prize and 1/4 for the others. You can find a press release here. Kao was instrumental in the development of the optical fiber technology for communications while Boyle and Smith invented a widely used device, the CCD.  CCD are everywhere today: your camera or TV camera has one. Boyle and Smith work at Bell Labs and here we see again a technological revolution coming out from there. This prize is quite similar to others awarding breakthroughs that changed our everyday life. Quite recently, on 2007, Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg got a similar recognition. These are living proofs that research can change our life in an unexpected and significant way.

Nicola Cabibbo and the Nobel prize


Nicola Cabibbo has been a teacher of mine at University “La Sapienza” in Rome. He taught me quantum field theory and I firstly got exposed to this beautiful construction of human mind through his wonderful lessons. I still have a vivid recollection of these lectures in the same room where Marcello Conversi explained us a lot of phenomenology ranging from blackbody radiation to Fermi theory of beta decay. Cabibbo was also my thesis advisor and he was there when I discussed it at my final “laurea” examination. So, I have a lot of reasons to regret for a missing deserved prize to him. I have read this article on Physics World and so memories flowed down. I have met him recently at Accademia dei Lincei in Rome. That was when Sergio Ferrara come there to talk about supersymmetry (see here). Cabibbo awarded Ferrara with a medal of the Accademia and it was a very nice moment.

I should say that Cabibbo’s lectures about QFT are still in my mind and I mantain memos of them on my shelves. Anyhow, Cabibbo is part of history of physics. No prize can change this or change the role he had in the development of particle physics.

Nambu, Kobayashi and Maskawa


It is appeared the announcement of the Royal Swedish Academy for the 2008 Nobel prize in physics (see here).  The prize has been awarded to Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa. Yoichiro Nambu has been awarded for his discovery of spontaneous breaking of simmetry in particle physics. A pair of fundamental papers about this fundational issue were written in collaboration with Giovanni Jona-Lasinio. These were the starting point of an idea that permeates the standard model. Kobayashi and Maskawa extended the idea due to Nicola Cabibbo of a quark mixing. Together with the Higgs mechanism this generated the idea that, in order to reproduce the observed pattern of CP violation, one should have at least three quark families. This prediction was confirmed with the observation of bottom and top quarks.

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