The 2018 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to physicists for their work in the development of laser technology. Lasers are the Earth’s brightest source of light. They produce the purest form of colour and can be focused down to the smallest point possible.
Half of the €1 million prize will go to Arthur Ashkin, an American, for his work on lasers known as ‘optical tweezers’. They can manipulate tiny objects like bacteria and viruses without causing them any damage.
The other half of the prize went to Gérard Mourou from France and Canadian physicist Donna Strickland. They created short, intense bursts of laser light using a process called ‘chirped pulse amplification’. These will be used in medical operations such as laser eye surgery.
Donna Strickland becomes only the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics. When told this by a reporter at a press conference, Dr Strickland replied, ‘Is that all? Really?’ She then went on to say that she was honoured by the award.
Marie Curie won the award in 1903, for her research to explain nuclear radiation, while Maria Goeppert Mayer won it in 1963 for her discoveries related to the structure of atoms.
The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay said, ‘The acknowledgment of Donna Strickland’s accomplishments sends an important message of encouragement to girls and women to better commit themselves to the sciences.’
Less than three percent of scientists today are women and UNESCO hope that this figure will rise very soon.
The winning scientists will receive a medal and their prize money at an awards ceremony on December 10 in Stockholm, Sweden.