Three scientists share 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics

STOCKHOLM – The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics to three scientists working the field of laser physics.

The academy, in a statement on Tuesday, said the award is “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” with one half to Arthur Ashkin and the other half jointly to Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland.

“It’s crazy! I wonder if it’s real! I am so happy!” said Strickland, the first woman to win the prestigious prize in 55 years, in a telephone interview with the academy at a press conference.

Strickland, from Canada, is only the third woman winner of the award, along with Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963.

Commenting on her achievements, she emphasized how she “sometimes tries to think outside of the box.”

Strickland said she looks forward to receiving the prize in Stockholm in December.

Arthur Ashkin (US)

Dr Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers, which is used to study biological systems.

Donna Strickland (Canada) & Gerard Mourou (France)

Drs Mourou and Strickland paved the way for the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created. They developed a technique called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA). It has found uses in laser therapy targeting cancer and in the millions of corrective laser eye surgeries which are performed each year.

The award comes a few days after a physicist gave a “highly offensive” lecture at the Cern particle physics laboratory in Geneva in which he said that physics had been “built by men” and that male scientists were being discriminated against.

He has since been suspended by the research centre.

Dr Strickland called the physicist’s remarks “silly” and said she never took such comments “personally”.

The last woman to win the physics prize, German-born American physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer, took the award for her discoveries about the nuclei of atoms.

Polish-born physicist Marie Curie shared the 1903 award with her husband Pierre Curie and Antoine Henri Becquerel for their research into radioactivity.

The award is worth a total of nine million Swedish kronor (£770,686; $998,618).