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Quantum leap for Nobel Prize winners

By Steve Connor

Two scientists who independently discovered how to manipulate individual atoms and particles of light have won this year's Nobel Prize for Physics for their research into the weird world of quantum mechanics, where something can exist in two different states at the same time.

Frenchman Serge Haroche and American David Wineland each helped to pioneer a field that has produced the most accurate clocks, as well as promising to develop super-fast "quantum computers".

Dr Haroche, of the College de France and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, invented a way of trapping particles of light, called photons, by sending atoms through a microwave trap that keeps a photon reflecting off two mirrors for more for than a tenth of a second -- equivalent to the photon travelling once around the Earth.

Dr Wineland, of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, used the opposite approach and devised a way of trapping electrically charged atoms or ions and controlling and measuring them with beams of laser light.

(© Independent News Service)

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