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Three British-born scientists have been named as this year’s joint Nobel Prize winners in the field of Physics.
David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz will share the prestigious award for their discoveries relating to the behaviour of strange forms of matter.
The trio of scientists, all of whom are now affiliated to universities in the United States, will share the 8m Kronor (€833,000) prize, and join the ranks of Physics laureates including Albert Einstein and Marie and Pierre Curie.
The Nobel Committee said at a press conference in Sweden that the discoveries had “opened the door on an unknown world”, by using mathematics to explain phenomena in rare states of matter, such as superfluids, superconductors, and extremely thin or flat surfaces which can be considered two-dimensional, challenging our concepts of a three-dimensional universe.
While it came as a surprise to many that the work in strange matter was awarded the prize ahead of recent work on gravitational waves, it is worth noting that much of the winning research was carried out in the 1970s and 1980s, pre-dating the other contenders for the prize.
The judges justified their choice by pointing out that while many of the discoveries were made decades ago, their full significance is only just becoming clear, as technological advances allow scientists to utilise the discoveries to their full extent.
In understanding the properties of strange matter, it could be possible to greatly improve materials used in electronic components, and already these breakthroughs are helping to make developments in super-fast computing.
Prof Haldane said that he was “very surprised and very gratified” by the accolade.
“The work was a long time ago but it’s only now that a lot of tremendous new discoveries are based on this original work,” he said.