Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Nobel Prize Goes Vintage This Year

Wow. While deserving, I didn't see this one coming because I thought the ship had left the harbor a long time ago.

The Nobel committee decided to dig deep and went back in time to award the prize to 3 condensed matter physicists for work done in the early 70's. This year's prize goes to David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz.

In the early 1970s, Kosterlitz and Thouless overturned the then-current theory that superconductivity could not occur in extremely thin layers.
"They demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism -- phase transition -- that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures," explained the Foundation. 
Around a decade later, Haldane also studied matter that forms threads so thin they can be considered one-dimensional.

Any condensed matter student would have heard of the Haldane chain, and the Kosterlitz-Thouless transition. These are textbooks concepts that are now widely used and accepted. It certainly took then long enough to decide to award the prize to these people.

I wonder if the Nobel committee is delaying the prize for the gravitational wave for another year to make sure it is verified, and to narrow down the people they award it to. Just like the award for the Higgs, there are several people, more than 3, that can easily deserve the prize.


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