British trio win Nobel prize in physics for work on exotic states of matter

Oct 4, 2016

By Ian Sample and Hannah Devlin

Three British scientists have won the Nobel prize in physics for their work on exotic states of matter that may pave the way for quantum computers and other revolutionary technologies.

David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz will share the 8m Swedish kronor (£718,000) prize announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm today.

The researchers were credited for their theoretical work on “topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”. Together, their discoveries transformed how scientists think about materials.


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17 comments on “British trio win Nobel prize in physics for work on exotic states of matter

  • From the OP

    “Sir Martin Rees, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Cambridge, and the Astronomer Royal, noted that all three awardees were Brits who had “defected” to the US in the 1980s, when university budgets were being squeezed by the Thatcher government. “The UK scientific scene is now much stronger than it was then – thanks in part of the strengthening of science on mainland Europe,” he said. “But there is a serious risk, aggravated by the tone of Amber Rudd’s deplorable speech today, that there will be a renewed surge of defections, weakening UK science and causing us to fail to recoup our investments over the lat 20 years.””

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/oct/04/rudd-announces-crackdown-on-overseas-students-and-new-work-visas

    Fncking brexit protect our borders little englander mean spirited cut off your nose despite your stupid face splendid isolationist good for nothing dog whistle power hungry self serving sazzafrackin fzzzttttt tt

    But well done to the trio. Deeply important work.



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  • phil rimmer #1
    Oct 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Fncking brexit protect our borders little englander mean spirited cut off your nose despite your stupid face splendid isolationist good for nothing dog whistle power hungry self serving sazzafrackin fzzzttttt tt

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/06/richard-dawkins-ignoramuses-should-have-no-say-on-our-eu-membership-and-that-includes-me/#comment-212196

    The ignoramuses seem to be firmly in command of both major UK parties as the pounds falls yet again in response to Tory brexit announcements.



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  • @1 and 2
    rejoice guys!

    Humph! Mumble grumble…mumble. Kicks cat, metaphorically.

    In the last five years we have found it impossible to find adequate British graduates in power electronics. Polish and Chinese graduates have been wonderful. They go back and carry our flag. Shutting them out of our education system is bonkers.

    British jobs for British people will bite our bum very hard. Another reason I may have to move, if not to Scotland trapped in the Union too long, then to Ireland.



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  • phil rimmer #4
    Oct 5, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Humph! Mumble grumble…mumble. Kicks cat, metaphorically.

    In the last five years we have found it impossible to find adequate British graduates in power electronics.

    You may soon find you can’t get co-operating fellow European research teams either!

    But think of the brexit advantages!
    The Tories at conference are promising to be champions of the workers with fairness to everyone. (Couldn’t be anything to do with posing for Corbyn-disaffected Labour voters!!! – Could it?)

    . . . and besides when it comes to the popular vote;- there is always the unity, harmonious organisation, skilled diplomacy, co-ordination, leadership, and clear long-term planning of UKIP to fall back on!! 🙂

    British Nobel!

    A historical last award perhaps?



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  • Well Phil, you could always take your chances here in the wild wild west.

    Land of opportunity!!

    I’ll pick you up at the airport and we’ll go straight over to the gun fair and get you equipped for life in the US of A!

    We have no qualms about poaching the talent of other countries. My husband is one of those.

    So exciting.

    😛



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  • LaurieB #6
    Oct 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    We have no qualms about poaching the talent of other countries. My husband is one of those.

    I know! – When decades ago, the “brains” of the then UK government announced that “There was no commercial future in developing small satellite launchers” – and scrapped the Blue-Streak and Black Knight rocket programmes after successfully launching a first satellite, lots of British rocket scientists went to work for NASA.



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  • Laurie,

    I nearly moved to Santa Monica in 1987. I spent most of the nineties working as a very frequent visitor around Detroit…well Bloomfield Hills then the noughties around Chicago (with savroD who has popped up here…clever person.) and Philly.

    The USA has the most delicious rind, SF, Seatle, Chicago, New York. The cultures are outward facing, rich and diverse. Rhode Island, though, has to be some acme of post industial civilisation. I had friends in Massachusetts/Boston. I think I’d like it there. Damn, It was going to be Edinburgh then Waterford now I gotta reinvent Europe so….Northeast USA it is.

    How many guns can I have? Can I get an RPG?



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  • Phil

    I don’t think there’s a limit to how many guns. Not many limits on type either as far as I know. Periodically on the nightly news we see that cops busted someone and found a minor arsenal in their home. Bizarre people. I had to look up what an RPG was. 😀 Truth be told I’m one of those anti-gun nuts. You might consider ordering a tank on Amazon. Will come in handy for our rush hour traffic.

    Boston is a good little city. Oh, and we have a decent intellectual class too. You know….we have Pinker after all.

    la-dee-da.



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  • Laurie,

    I’m one of those anti-gun nuts.

    Me too. I’ve just got Gary Younge’s “Another Day in the Death of America.” He’s a fantastic writer/journalist reminding us the issue is not about responsible ownership, it is about the risks to undeserving others. This complements Alice Goffman’s work in “On the Run”.



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  • Phil

    Oh goody. I always like a good book recommendation. I’ll check those out. Could it be true that anti-gun nut American = run of the mill ordinary European?

    Here’s one I just added to my wish list:

    The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch) [Author: Instructor Jonathan Gottschall] published on (April, 2015)

    by Instructor Jonathan Gottschall (Hardcover)

    I have eleven books sitting here ready to go. Winter is long in N.E.



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  • Pinball

    Even someone with a mediocre education in history of science would acknowledge the intellectual giants that come from your side of the pond. This is a given.

    A book that I loved on the topic is The Age of Wonder, How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes.

    Here is an excerpt from the prologue of that book:

    The first scientific revolution, of the seventeenth century, is familiarly associated with the names of Newton, Hooke, Locke and Descartes, and the almost simultaneous foundations of the Royal Society in London and the Academie des Science in Paris. Its existence has long been accepted, and the biographies of its leading figures are well known. But this second revolution was something different. The first person who referred to a ‘second scientific revolution’ was probably the poet Coleridge in his Philosophical Lectures of 1819. It was inspired primarily by a sudden series of breakthroughs in the fields of astronomy and chemistry. It was a movement that grew out of eighteenth-century Enlightenment rationalism, but largely transformed it, by bringing a new imaginative intensity and excitement to scientific work. It was driven by a common ideal of intense, even reckless, personal commitment to discovery.

    It was also a movement of transition. It flourished for a relatively brief time, perhaps two generations, but produced long-lasting consequences – raising hopes and questions – that are still with us today. Romantic science can be dated roughly, and certainly symbolically, between two celebrated voyages of exploration. These were Captain James Cook’s first round-the-world expedition aboard the Endeavour, begun in 1768 and Charles Darwin’s voyage to the Galapagos islands aboard the Beagle, begun in 1831. This is the time I have called the Age of Wonder, and with any luck we have not yet quite outgrown it.

    The idea of the exploratory voyage, often lonely and perilous, is in one form or another a central and defining metaphor of Romantic science. That is how William Wordsworth brilliantly transformed the great Enlightenment image of Sir Isaac Newton into a Romantic one. While a university student in the 1780’s Wordsworth had often contemplated the full-size statue of Newton, with his severely close-cropped hair, that still dominates the stone-flagged entrance hall to the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. As Wordsworth originally put it, he could see, a few yards from his bedroom window, over the brick wall of St John’s College,

    And from my pillow, looking forth by light
    Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
    The antechapel where the statue stood
    Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
    The marble index of a mind for ever
    Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.

    Wordsworth, The Prelude 1850, Book 3, lines 58-64

    The cast of characters in the book Age of Wonder

    Sir Joseph Banks

    Thomas Beddoes

    Charles Blagden

    David Brewster

    John Dalton

    Erasmus Darwin

    Humphry Davy

    Michael Faraday

    Davies Gilbert

    Luke Howard

    James Hutton

    Edward Jenner

    Sir William Lawrence

    James Lind

    Nevil Maskelyne

    William Nicholson

    Mungo Park

    James Sadler

    James Watt

    William Herschel

    Caroline Herschel

    This is an incomplete list to be sure. This book is a really great read.



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  • Laurie,

    So glad you liked The Age of Wonder. I’ve also just received your recommendation, “Rape a Natural History”. I suspect it may have a little light to shed on the murderous ape thread.



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  • Phil

    I’ll be happy to hear your thoughts on the rape book. The murderous ape thread will do for discussion although the topic could support a thread of its own! A good discussion would need a third waver feminist, a few indignant men with hurt feelings, and a few people of the Book to chime in from time to time, heh.



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