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Nobel physics trio made 'atoms sing'

The U.S. has issued a special stamp to honour the 100-year anniversary
The U.S. has issued a special stamp to honour the 100-year anniversary  

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Two Americans and a German have won the Nobel physics prize for discovering a new state of matter that could lead to super-small machines.

Americans Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman and German-born Wolfgang Ketterle won the prize for freezing matter into a new state that may help make microscopic computers and revolutionise aircraft guidance.

The trio of scientists will split about $950,000 for their efforts.

"This year's Nobel laureates have succeeded -- they have caused atoms to 'sing in unison' -- thus discovering a new state of matter," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

Cornell, 39, is a senior scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado.

Medicine winners 'in shock'  

Wieman, 50, is a professor of physics at University of Colorado in Boulder.

Ketterle, 43, is a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

The new state of matter, an ultra-cold gas, could allow high-precision measurements of tiny distances and objects.

Their discovery is "going to bring revolutionary applications in such fields as precision measurement and nanotechnology," the academy said.

Nanotechnology could lead to molecular motors, cellular machines, drugs that target specific cells, and computers that rival the brain in processing, communications and storage.

Scientists say it could lead to stronger, lighter and cheaper materials, with implications for industries ranging from power and manufacturing to computing and biotechnology.

The men were recognized "for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates," the academy said.

This year's awards mark the 100th anniversary of the first Nobel prizes, funded by the late Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel.

This year the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences broke with tradition and announced only the physics prize winner on Tuesday. In past years, the chemistry winner has been announced on the same day.

The chemistry prize will be awarded on Wednesday, together with the economics prize. On Friday, the winner of the coveted peace prize -- the only one not awarded in Sweden -- will be announced in Oslo, Norway.

On Monday, British scientists R.Timothy Hunt and Paul M. Nurse and American researcher Leland H. Hartwell were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology for making crucial breakthroughs in understanding how cells control their division. The research is expected to improve understanding of the way cancer cells develop and new approaches to tackling cancer.


• Medicine prize winners 'in shock'
October 8, 2001

• Nobel Prize

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