US, French Quantum Physicists Win Nobel
Their work could lead to super-fast computer
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2012 7:12 AM CDT
This 2009 photo provided Tuesday Oct. 9, 2012 by the CNRS (Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique) shows French physician Serge Haroche, right, and his aide Igor Dotsenko in Paris.   (AP Photo/CNRS/ Christophe Lebedinsky)
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(Newser) – Two quantum physicists have won this year's Nobel Prize for Physics for their work measuring quantum particles, which could one day lead to an ultra-fast computer. Before the work of French scientist Serge Haroche and American David Wineland, researchers didn't think it was possible to measure the particles without ruining them, the New York Times reports. "The Nobel laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics," says the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which handed out the $1.2 million prize, in a statement. "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 BBC has more on the work of Haroche and Wineland, complicated stuff that involves the most fundamental units of light and matter. It could also lead to advances in super-precise light-based clocks. Some had speculated this year's prize would go to Peter Higgs or his colleagues after this year's discovery of the Higgs boson, but the BBC notes that the Nobel prizes tend to wait years before honoring discoveries. Yesterday, the prize for medicine went to two stem-cell researchers (one of whom reflected that he was once seen as "too stupid for science"). Click to see past winners of the physics prize.