Published On: Tue, Oct 4th, 2016

Nobel prize for Physics in 2016 to be shared by David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz

One of the winners, Michael Kosterlitz, is the son of Hans Kosterlitz, a German-born Jewish biologist who emigrated to Scotland in 1934 following the election of the Nazi Party.

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The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2016  to British-born scientists  David Thouless, 82,
Duncan Haldane, 65,  and Michael Kosterlitz, 73, ”for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” In other words, for revealing the secrets of exotic matter such as superconductors — materials which conduct electricity with no loss to resistance. Professor Michael Kosterlitz, the son of German-Jewish immigrant parents. His father, Hans Kosterlitz was a biochemist who was forced to leave Germany in 1934 and went to Scotland after the Nazis implemented antisemitic legislation that barred him from his job at Charity Hospital in Berlin. Kosterlitz is best known for his study of endorphins.

Most matter has three states we all know and can see: gas, liquid and solid. But, what we do not know is that at extremely low or high temperatures, matter can start to behave strangely.

The three laureates “opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states.”, said the The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.”They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter. ”

In cold layers of atoms so flat they can be considered two dimensional, you can find superconductors — materials that electrical current can flow through with no resistance from the particles therein — and super fluids, where friction-less vortexes can spin forever without slowing down.

“Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics.”

 

 

Using topology as a tool- Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties that only change step-wise- the three researchers were able to astound the experts. helped reveal the stunningly strange behaviors of these exotic states of matter.

From a topological standpoint, a bagel, a cinnamon bun and a pretzel are distinguished only by the number of holes they contain. If an object changes from having one hole to two, it is said to have undergone a topological phase transition.

 

 

In the 1980s, Thouless was able to explain a previous experiment with very thin electrically conducting layers in which conductance was precisely measured as integer steps. He showed that these integers were topological in their nature. At around the same time, Duncan Haldane discovered how topological concepts can be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials.

We now know of many topological phases, not only in thin layers and threads, but also in ordinary three-dimensional materials. Over the last decade, this area has boosted frontline research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers. Current research is revealing the secrets of matter in the exotic worlds discovered by this year’s Nobel Laureates.

The chemistry prize will be announced on Wednesday and the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. The economics and literature awards will be announced next week.
Each prize has a purse of $930, 000. The award ceremonies on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

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