Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to quantum entanglement experimentalists
The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for their work in pioneering quantum information science. Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger all conducted some of the first experiments with entangled photons, enabling a future for commercial quantum computers.
The spooky world of quantum physics predicts a few unexpected quirks, including quantum entanglement. This state allows two particles to become so entwined with each other that changes made to one will instantly affect the other, no matter how far apart they are.
The idea disturbed Einstein himself, who argued that the quantum physics is an “incomplete theory” and instead hypothesized that as-yet-unknown “hidden variables” were producing the effect. In the 1960s, physicist John Stewart Bell developed a theoretical test for the debate, saying that if you’re testing many pairs of particles, at a certain point correlations become far too coincidental to be the product of hidden variables. This became known as the Bell inequality.
John Clauser, the first Laureate of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics, developed Bell’s idea into a practical experiment. In doing so, he demonstrated a clear Bell inequality violation, lending support to quantum mechanics.
Alain Aspect built on Clauser’s work, closing a loophole by which hidden variables could potentially still interfere with an experiment. He developed a way to switch the measurement settings after an entangled pair of photons had left the source, meaning the original setting couldn’t affect the result.
Later, Anton Zeilinger developed ways to use entangled photons for information storage and transmission. This includes what’s known as quantum teleportation, where information can essentially be teleported between particles over long distances instantly. This is a key part of the emerging field of quantum computers, encryption and communication networks.
“It has become increasingly clear that a new kind of quantum technology is emerging,” said Anders Irbäck, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics. “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.”
The news follows Monday’s announcement of Swedish geneticist Svante Pääbo being awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work sequencing extinct hominin genomes. The other prizes will be awarded through the week.
Source: Nobel Prize.org