The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics went to three laureates: Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger. The tribute was made because of his research in quantum physics.
The studies developed by the three researchers involved experiments with entangled photons. The result opens up new avenues for technologies that are based on quantum physics and also opens up new theoretical possibilities in the field of study.
Quantum physics is the area dedicated to the study of tiny particles that make up the universe and the interactions that occur between them. An important concept for this scientific field is the entangled state. The idea is that when something happens to a particle, the phenomenon will also happen to other particles that are in this entangled pair, even if they are very far from each other.
A comparison would be with a machine that throws white and black balls in opposite directions. A person on one side receives a white ball and then concludes that the ball from the opposite position was black.
When this situation is analyzed from the perspective of quantum physics, the explanation becomes somewhat more complex. The balls would be the particles and would be in an entangled pair because, when someone receives one of them, he can already determine the state —in this case, the color—of the other.
However, for quantum physics, the property of these balls before being thrown would actually be gray. It is only when one of the people realizes that the ball received is black that the color of the other would change, becoming white.
The researches of Aspect, Clauser and Zeilinger are part of this complex field of investigation on the entangled state of particles. They are complementary and challenge the concept of mathematical inequality, proposed by the physicist John Stewart Bell.
In addition to the new discoveries, the research of the three were recognized by the Nobel due to their ability to generate practical applications of quantum physics.
“It has become increasingly clear that a new type of quantum technology is emerging. We can see that the laureates’ work with entangled states is of great importance, even beyond the fundamental questions about the interpretation of quantum mechanics,” said Anders Irbäck, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics.
Alain Aspect was born in 1947 in Agen, France. In 1983, he finished his doctorate at the French university Paris-Sud. He is currently a professor at the Paris-Saclay University and the Polytechnic School, both in France.
The research developed by him and now recognized at the Nobel is on quantum teleportation. In 1997, he and his research group pioneered and demonstrated by experiments that when two particles in an entangled state travel in opposite directions and encounter another particle, that new particle and its properties are assimilated into that entangled state. This phenomenon is called quantum teleportation.
A year later, the research group went further. Now the goal was to work with separate pairs of particles. Each pair had their respective particles that were in an entangled state. So the scientists made a particle of one pair meet the particle of the other pair. This caused the other particles that did not have contact with each other to enter the entangled state, as their peers were connected in the quantum system.
The discovery is interesting because it could be a means for transmitting the original information of a particular particle to a point further away. In this case, several connections between entangled pairs could be formed, connecting the particles with each other.
John F. Clauser is American. He was born in 1942 in Pasadena, California. His doctorate was taken at Columbia, a prestigious university in New York. He now serves as a physical researcher at JF Clauser and Associates.
Lastly, Anton Zeilinger was born in 1945 in Austria. He studied for a doctorate at the University of Vienna and is currently a professor at the same academic centre.
In addition to the recognition that a Nobel confers, the winners will receive 10 million Swedish kronor (about R$ 4.8 million). A diploma and a medal also compose the award.
Since 1901, 115 Nobel Prizes in Physics have been awarded to 218 people. Of these, only four are women.
The award began on account of the death of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), inventor of dynamite and responsible for the development of rubber and synthetic leather. The scientist registered a total of 355 patents during his lifetime.
In his last will, dated 1895, Nobel recorded that his fortune should be used to build a prize – which his family received with disapproval. After six years, at last, Nobel’s wish was granted and the first prize was awarded.
In addition to physics, the honor is awarded in five other categories: chemistry, medicine or physiology, literature, peace and economics.
This Monday (3), the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine ceremony took place. It was handed over to Swedish researcher Svante Pääbo, 67, for unraveling the genomes of extinct hominins, that is, missing members of the primate group to which humans belong.
Nominations and choice of honorees
The evaluation process for a Nobel Prize in Physics begins in September of the year before the award is awarded. The first step consists of sending approximately 3,000 invitations to indicate names that could be recognized by the tribute. Guests cannot self-nominate.
These invitations are addressed to members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, members of the Nobel Committee in Physics, Nobel Prize winners in Physics, professors of physics at universities and institutes of technology in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, and the Institute Karolinska in Stockholm and other scientists the Academy deems suitable to receive the invitations.
The institution also invites professors from at least six universities around the world. Invitations are normally extended to more academic centers in order to ensure the proper distribution of nominations across continents and subject areas.
Then, there is an analysis of the hundreds of names mentioned with the application of processes, such as report development, to narrow the selection. Finally, in October, the Academy, by majority vote, decides who will receive the recognition.