Canadian scientist Donna Strickland shares Nobel physics prize

02 October, 2018, 20:58 | Author: Chad Warren
  • Arthur Ashkin, Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland

American scientist Arthur Ashkin, French engineer Gérard Mourou and English professor Donna Strickland have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in the field of laser physics.

Three scientists were announced on Tuesday as the winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics for their work with lasers.

The academy said Ashkin developed "optical tweezers" that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them. The only other female victor is famed historical physicist Marie Curie.

Then, in 1987, he used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them.

The inventions revolutionized the field, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted in its announcement. However, in this celebratory narrative, let us not get carried away by Strickland's achievement - that of a woman winning the physics Nobel Prize - because it is not an achievement. But now that Donna Strickland has been awarded a part of the physics Nobel, it is impossible to ignore her gender. They paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind. This consideration automatically renders its male laureates - especially white male laureates from the U.S. and Europe, the overwhelming fraction - as being bearers of an extreme privilege apart from also being men who undertook commendable scientific work.

A reporter asked the professor what it felt like to be the third woman in history to win the physics prize. In work that formed Strickland's PhD thesis, she and Mourou took inspiration from a radar technique.

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"It is also a personal delight to see Dr Strickland break the 55-year hiatus since a woman has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, making this year's award all the more historic".

Mourou and Strickland are honored for their "chirped pulse amplification" - a technique that has allowed researchers to boost the power of lasers. It quickly became a standard for subsequent high-intensity lasers finding many varied applications including in the life-changing corrective eye surgeries that are so common today.

"This year's prize is about tools made from light", Göran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, summarizing awards during his remarks at the press conference.

"Ultra-sharp laser beams make it possible to cut or drill holes in various materials extremely precisely - even in living matter", the Nobel Prize twitter account noted.

The inventions by the three scientists date back to the mid-1980s and over the years they have revolutionized laser physics.


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