Maybe next year: TAU's Aharonov misses out on Nobel

Maybe next year TAUs A

October 6, 2009 23:43
2 minute read.

Tel Aviv University theoretical physicist Prof. Yakir Aharonov did not receive the Nobel Prize for Physics on Tuesday, leaving Israelis disappointed. Instead, the prize will be shared by three US citizens who created the technology behind digital photography and helped link the world through fiber-optic networks. Aharonov, who was born in Haifa 77 years ago and was considered by experts to be among the leading candidates, told The Jerusalem Post hours after the announcement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that "maybe next year" he would receive it. Asked whether, besides merit, a public relations campaign was needed to promote a scientist's candidacy, the pioneer in quantum mechanics said it would have helped, and that TAU could have launched a campaign on his behalf. Asked whether he thought the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology did so when its Prof. Avram Hershko and Prof. Aaron Ciechanover won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry five years ago, Aharonov said he believed that it had initiated "some campaign." Prof. Charles K. Kao, who is of Chinese origin and holds British as well as US citizenship, was cited for his breakthrough involving the transmission of light in fiber optics, while Prof. Willard S. Boyle (who is also a Canadian) and Prof. George E. Smith were honored for inventing an imaging semiconductor circuit known as the CCD sensor. The award's $1.4 million purse will be split unevenly among the three, with Kao taking half and Boyle and Smith sharing the rest. The laureates will also receive a diploma and an invitation to the prize ceremonies in Stockholm on December 10. Kao, who was born in Shanghai and lives in Britain, was cited for his 1966 discovery of how to transmit light over long distances via fiber-optic cables, which became the backbone of modern communication networks that carry phone calls and high-speed Internet data around the globe. Boyle and Smith worked together to invent the charged-coupled device, or CCD, the eye of the digital camera, which is found in everything from the cheapest point-and-shoot to high-speed, delicate surgical instruments. In its citation, the academy said that Boyle and Smith "invented the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor. The CCD technology makes use of the photoelectric effect, as theorized by Albert Einstein and for which he was awarded the same Nobel Prize in 1921." The two men, working at Bell Labs in New Jersey, designed an image sensor that could transform light into a large number of image points, or pixels, in a short time. Israel's last Nobel win was that of Prof. Robert Aumann, for economics, in 2005. Israel has had eight Nobel laureates; the first was S.Y. Agnon, who won his literature prize in 1966. Aharonov is a professor emeritus at TAU and a professor of theoretical physics at Chapman University in California and the University of South Carolina. Exactly 50 years ago, he and the late US-British Prof. David Bohm proposed the Aharonov-Bohm Effect and the related Berry Phase (with Prof. Michael Berry of the University of Bristol in the UK). The effect clearly shows that in quantum theory, the essence of electromagnetic forces is significantly different from the way in which they function in classical physics. Aharonov will still be honored next week at TAU by a scientific conference to be attended by leading scientists from around the world, including Prof. David Gross, a 2004 Nobel Prize laureate in physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Aharonov has previously received Israel's Weizmann Prize, Rothschild Award, the Israel Prize and Wolf Foundation Prize.

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