Nobel Prize for Physics 2022

Nobel Prize Winners for Physics 2022 Alain Aspect, John Clauser, & Anton Zellinger

By Shlomo Maital

   “The Nobel Prize in Physics 2022 was awarded jointly to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger “for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science”.

     Confusing?  Mysterious?  Baffling? Jargon?  “Bell inequalities???”.

     Here is Washington Post’s clearer take on the prize winners:

   Washington Post: “ The 2022 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to three researchers for their pioneering experiments in quantum information science, a burgeoning field that could revolutionize computing, cryptography and the transfer of information via what is known as “quantum teleportation.”

     “The three physicists are John F. Clauser, 79, of Walnut Creek, Calif., Alain Aspect, 75, of the Université Paris-Saclay and École Polytechnique in France, and Anton Zeilinger, 77, of the University of Vienna.

      “The physicists honored Tuesday found experimental ways to confirm what had previously been theorized, including the “entanglement” of photons (particles of light) in a phenomenon that Albert Einstein famously referred to as “spooky action at a distance.” As the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences put it Tuesday: “What happens to one particle in an entangled pair determines what happens to the other, even if they are really too far apart to affect each other. The laureates’ development of experimental tools has laid the foundation for a new era of quantum technology.”

     “For Clauser, the honor was a long time in coming.

      “This is all for work I did more than 50 years ago,” he said, clearly elated Tuesday morning when reached at his home.

     “As a graduate student at Columbia University, where he received his doctorate in 1969, “I was struggling to try to understand quantum mechanics, unsuccessfully. Didn’t understand what I didn’t understand,” he said.

    “But then he came across a paper by the physicist John Bell that suggested that quantum theory and a rival set of theories, known as “hidden variables,” were inconsistent with one another. Clauser thought: “If there’s a difference between the two, it must be testable.”

    “After Clauser moved to the University of California at Berkeley, he and colleagues rummaged through storage rooms for supplies, found “scrap hanging around in the physics department” and cut metal in a shop. “We didn’t have any money to spend, so we had to build everything from scratch ourselves,” he said. The result was a 30-foot-long apparatus that could beam photons — particles of light — in opposite directions.

    “In 1972, Clauser and doctoral student Stuart Freedman — who died in 2012 — reported that their experiment detected entanglement consistent with predictions of quantum mechanics, according to the academy.

   [Note:  Freedman may have shared the Nobel,  had he lived.  Alas.]

   “Clauser said he was surprised by the result, which contradicted Einstein’s views on quantum mechanics.

    “Einstein assumed that nature consists of stuff, distributed throughout space, including bits of information and the like. That seems very reasonable. And, in fact, general relativity is based on that. What the experiments show is that is not true,” Clauser said. “You can’t localize bits of information in a small, finite volume. That simple result then has applications that extend to quantum encryption and other forms of quantum information theory.”

     “Quantum mechanics is an area of physics going back more than a century, and it has yielded applications, including transistors and lasers, that people use in everyday life. But the potential applications of the principles of quantum mechanics appear limitless.”

   And, the Post may have added, quantum computing is now creating high-powered computers that are orders of magnitude more powerful than conventional computers.