This hot-off-the-press video from the science-explainer folks at Sixty Symbols does a great job of detailing the science of the work by Serge Haroche of France and American David Wineland, which won them 2012 Nobel Prize in physics today. Their experiments on quantum particles have already resulted in ultra-precise clocks and may one day help lead to computers that can work faster than those in use today.
The video also shows how expectations were that the prize might go to the teams at the Large Hadron Collier for the discovery of what they called a “Higgs-like boson” — a particle that resembles the long sought-after Higgs.
But, back to the winners: Haroche and Wineland showed in the 1990s how to observe individual particles while preserving their bizarre quantum properties, something that scientists had struggled to do before. As the Nobel Prize committee states, “The Nobel Laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them.”
Read more about their work at the Nobel website.