You wouldn't be surprised to learn that a laboratory run by the U.S. Department of Commerce is working on more precise methods to measure stuff.
However, you might not expect it to be at the cutting edge of the mind-bending world of quantum physics. But on Tuesday, David Wineland became the fourth employee at the National Institute for Standards and Technology, a federal lab, to win a Nobel since 1997. Wineland learned he will share the Nobel Prize in physics with Frenchman Serge Haroche for work that's both esoteric and practical.
Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 10:46 am
Credit Copyright Geoffrey Wheeler / National Institute of Standards and Technology
David Wineland is the American half of the scientific duo celebrating the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics today.
Wineland and French scientist Serge Haroche developed new ways for scientists to observe individual quantum particles without damaging them. This may not sound so impressive, but the work opens a world of possibilities— including the development of a quantum computer and super-precise clock.
But who needs a better clock? Don't we have pretty good ones already?
Of course, Nobel Prize winners get about $1.2 million and the winners of the physics Nobel will split that. At a news conference today in Boulder, Colorado, Dave Wineland said he has no idea what he will do with the money. As Boulder's Daily Camera newspaper reported, his colleague, also a Nobel laureate, suggested that Wineland might upgrade his wardrobe. Wineland was wearing a fleece jacket and a polo shirt.
What was supposed to be a 60-day moratorium on certain experiments involving lab-altered bird flu has now lasted more than eight months. And there's no clear end in sight.
Researchers still disagree on how to best manage the risks posed by mutant forms of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu. The altered viruses are contagious between ferrets, which are the lab stand-in for humans. The fear is that these germs could potentially cause a deadly flu pandemic in people if they ever escaped the lab.
For all their variety and variation, cities are, at their root, physical systems. That means, at some fundamental level, they are also expressions of the laws of physics. In physics size matters (or "scale" as we call it). Physicists learn different things about an object by looking at it from different scales. In our first exploration of physics and cities we stayed at the street level. At that scale we saw cities as machines: cars and elevators, pipes and plumbing. Then we went up to the roof. At that scale we saw cities as engines, vast systems for turning energy into work.
At a recent academic conference, Michigan State University professor Natalie Phillips stole a glance around the room. A speaker was talking but the audience was fidgety. Some people were conferring among themselves, or reading notes. One person had dozed off.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was announced Monday in Sweden to two scientists: John Gurdon of England and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan. The two will share the prize for their landmark work on stem cells. These cells hold great promise for treating human disease but they are also a source of controversy.
Originally published on Mon October 8, 2012 3:28 pm
Credit Shizuo Kambayashi / Associated Press
The two scientists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine discovered that cells in our body have the remarkable ability to reinvent themselves. They found that every cell in the human body, from our skin and bones to our heart and brain, can be coaxed into forming any other cell.