Nobel Prize for Quantum Researchers: The Physics of the Unimaginable

Status: 04.10.2022 16:40 hrs

Quantum research is one of the most complicated disciplines in physics – but it is very topical. Because it forms the basis of future technologies such as quantum computers or artificial intelligence.

By Nina Kunze and Ralf Kölbel, science editors at SWR

Their experiments laid the foundation for a “new era of quantum technology” – that’s how the Swedish Academy of Sciences justified its decision to honor Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger with the Nobel Prize in Physics. Hardly any other field of physics is as complex and beyond the dimensions of our imagination. So what’s the point?

Three quantum researchers receive the Nobel Prize in Physics – Interview with Helmut Dosch, director of research center DESY

tagesschau24 12:00, 4.10.2022

Quantum physics tries to explain the inexplicable

Quantum research is the field of physics that deals with the behavior and interaction of the smallest particles. More than 100 years ago, physicists began to decipher the rules by which this quantum world works. Since then, they have found all kinds of phenomena that contradict common sense: for example, that particles can also have wave properties, and that their state is always hazy and depends on the time and type of observation.

The three award winners have researched a phenomenon that even Albert Einstein described as “ghostly action at a distance”. So-called entangled particles behave as a single entity – even if they are thousands of kilometers apart. When the state of one particle changes, the state of the other particle changes automatically. In this way, even teleportation can come about – a phenomenon that comes close to rays in science fiction movies.

theory of rays

The Austrian Zeilinger investigated exactly this teleportation. His research therefore earned him the nickname “Mr. Beam”, referring to the legendary “Beamen” in the science fiction series Star Trek. In 1997 Zeilinger succeeded for the first time in transferring a state from one light particle to another through entanglement – and thus teleportation.

Clauser and Aspect, on the other hand, were proving the theory of entangled particles. To do this, they implemented the theoretical considerations of quantum physics in practical experiments: The American constructed a device that emitted two entangled photons at the same time, the academy announced. He then checked the photons with a filter and found that they matched predictions from quantum mechanics.

Fundamentals of quantum computing

Today, these quantum physics findings form the basis for future technologies. These include building extremely powerful quantum computers, sending messages securely using quantum encryption, and developing artificial intelligence.

“Do what interests you”

In the Nobel Prize Committee’s press conference, Zeilinger said, “I’m still a little shocked” — but it was definitely a “positive shock.” One thing was particularly important to him on the occasion of the award, he emphasized: the award should be an incentive for young people. The award for him was only possible with the help of the numerous young scientists with whom he had worked over the years. His advice: “Do what interests you and don’t worry too much about the potential uses.”

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