Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Nobel Physics

Today’s New York Times article didn’t explain it very well, but the Nobel Prize in Physics awarded this morning is for the discovery of “asymptotic freedom,” a bizarre property of quarks and gluons. Unlike every other force discovered to date,…
October 5, 2004

Today’s New York Times article didn’t explain it very well, but the Nobel Prize in Physics awarded this morning is for the discovery of “asymptotic freedom,” a bizarre property of quarks and gluons. Unlike every other force discovered to date, quarks and gluons experience something quite different–a force that is negligible at small distances and that grows larger with distance. Amazingly, as two quarks are separated in space, their force of attraction increases. That’s completely unlike anything seen in the gravitational or electromagnetic realm.

Why does this matter? Of course, it matters if you’re looking to understand the very fundamental construction of the universe. But it also matters if you’re trying to understand the collisions of very large atomic nuclei such as uranium, where what’s thought to happen is the construction of a quark-gluon plasma.

It’s difficult, at the moment, to see a practical application for the work on asymptotic freedom. But it would hardly be the first time a Nobel on an obscure process has led to new developments. The 1971 Prize to Dennis Gabor for holograms is a case in point. A couple of prizes in quantum electronics (1956, 1964) have proved their worth in the computer revolution. Even prizes like that of 1936, for the discovery of the positron, while once theoretical and abstract, have proven themselves prescient with the development of the positron-emission tomograph and perhaps even the positron-electron bomb. This year’s prize has the same feel to it – that 30 years from now engineers will be deciding what to do with it.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.

Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.

Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.

AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.

What’s next for AI in 2024

Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.