Two Americans and a German-born scientist win the Nobel Prize in physics

Tuesday, October 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ Two Americans and a U.S.-based German scientist shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for creating a new state of matter: an ultra-cold gas that could aid in developing smaller and faster electronics.

Eric A. Cornell, 39, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo.; Carl E. Wieman, 50, of the University of Colorado; and German Wolfgang Ketterle, 43, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will share the $943,000 prize.

Cornell and Wieman also work at JILA, a research institute in Boulder formerly known as the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics. Ketterle worked independently of them in Germany before coming to MIT in 1990.

The three men's joint creation of the Bose-Einstein condensate in 1995 could lead to ways to make ever tinier electronic circuits. The new technology could eventually be used to draw computer circuits by depositing a stream of atoms on a circuit board.

The advances are ``going to bring revolutionary applications in such fields as precision measurement and nanotechnology,'' or micro-machines, according to the citation by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The research will also help scientists measure fundamental properties of matter.

``Revolutionary applications ... appear to be just round the corner,'' the citation said.

The term Bose-Einstein refers to Indian physicist S.N. Bose and Albert Einstein. As early as 1924, Bose did statistical research on light particles called photons and sent his work to Einstein, who extended the theory to cover mass.

Einstein predicted that when particles slow down and approach each other, they produce a new state of matter. Other states of matter include solids, liquids and gases.

The academy noted that more than 20 groups are conducting experiments with Bose-Einstein condensates but add that the laureates ``have maintained their lead and many interesting new results have been presented.''

The Nobel awards started Monday with the naming of three physiology or medicine prize winners. American researcher Leland H. Hartwell and Britons Tim Hunt and Paul Nurse were cited for work on cell development that helps researchers understand how cancer grows and could lead to new treatments.

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. The literature award will be announced Thursday.

Last year, the physics prize went to Zhores I. Alferov of the A.F. Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Herbert Kroemer, a German-born researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Both shared half of the prize for developing technology used in satellite communications and cellular phones.

Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments in Dallas got the other half for his part in the invention and development of the integrated circuit, the forerunner of the microchip, and as a co-inventor of the pocket calculator.

Alfred Nobel, the wealthy Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite who endowed the physics, chemistry, literature, medicine and peace prizes, left only vague guidelines for selecting winners.

In his will he said the prizes should be given to those who ``shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind'' and ``shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics.''

The prizes always are presented to the winners on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896. To mark the 100th anniversary of the prizes, all living laureates have been invited to the ceremonies this year, with some 150 expected in Stockholm and 30 in Oslo.