Physics Nobel for laser pioneers includes first woman in 55 years

02 October, 2018, 20:56 | Author: Sidney Guerrero

The Swedish Academy-which awards the prize-said the trio's work led to "groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics".

Ashkin, 96, was honored for his invention of "optical tweezers" that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers. Strickland's work is commendable, yes, but she has become the first woman to "attain" this distinction in 55 years. When Göran Hansson, who announced the prize and is the secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, reached him by phone and asked if he could speak to reporters, Ashkin said he was too busy with his latest paper.

"Obviously we need to celebrate women physicists, because we're out there", she said.

The awarding of the Nobel Prize in physics to Strickland has ended a drought for women winning any of the prestigious prizes.

The two "paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind", a technique now used in corrective eye surgery. The team created ultrashort, high-intensity laser pulses, essentially packing more light than standard lasers in the same tiny space. This consideration automatically renders its male laureates - especially white male laureates from the United States and Europe, the overwhelming fraction - as being bearers of an extreme privilege apart from also being men who undertook commendable scientific work.

Strickland's award is the first to have gone to a woman in physics since 1963, when it was won by Maria Goeppert-Mayer; the only other one was Marie Curie in 1903.

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"We invented a technique that made the laser extremely powerful".

France's President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to the French co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, saying the award highlights French research and its applications.

Dr Strickland has said she enjoys the competitive rush of pushing the boundaries of what lasers can do.

The Rochester researchers developed an elegant workaround, which they called "chirped pulse amplification".

A Nobel committee member said billions of people make daily use of laser printers and optical scanners and millions undergo laser surgery.

"I thought there might have been more but I couldn't think". This means that a total of 206 individuals have received the Nobel Prize in Physics. What we are looking at is actually a bad failure that has only now begun to rectify itself: that of the Nobel Committee having ignored female candidates for the prize for half a century.

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