Nobel Prize in Physics could focus on light

Nobel Prize in Physics could focus on light


Bending and manipulating light to make objects invisible, or using it more efficiently to generate electricity are among the discoveries that will be honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the winner at 11:45 (0945 GMT).

Last year, the Academy honored Syukuro Manabe of Japan and the United States and Germany’s Klaus Hasselmann for their research on climate models, while Italian Giorgio Parisi also won for his work on the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems.

David Pendlebury, head of Clarivate – an organization that keeps a close eye on potential award winners in the sciences – said the committee is likely to remain terrestrial this year.

“There have been so many awards in astrophysics and cosmology in recent years. So I don’t think that’s on the table this year,” he told AFP.

He said a possible choice could be Brit John B. Pendry, who has become famous for his “cloak of invisibility,” in which he uses materials to bend light to make objects invisible.

Other potential winners include Sajeev John and American Eli Yablonovitch, who in 1987 discovered photonic crystals capable of controlling and manipulating the flow of light.

– Photovoltaic? –

Ulrika Bjorksten, science commentator for Swedish public radio, said the academy could also focus on photovoltaics: the conversion of light into electricity.

Björksten said work on perovskite – a material discovered by Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski in the 19th century – could be credited.

This could steer the Academy toward Britain’s Henry Snaith, a physics professor at Oxford University who is developing new materials and structures for hybrid solar cells.

The relatively recent discovery that metal halide perovskites can work extremely efficiently in thin-film solar cells makes it a contender, Bjorksten said.

“He was the source of why perovskite got so much attention,” Bjorksten told AFP.

South Korea’s Nam Gyu Park could also be a candidate for his research into improving the stability of photovoltaic cells.

Photovoltaic specialists, on the other hand, could potentially be overlooked because the field is so vast, Bjorksten said.

“It’s really difficult … because there are so many involved,” Bjorksten said.

Linus Brohult, science editor at Swedish public broadcaster SVT, said microphysics expert Stephen Quake could be considered for work on microscopic fluid dynamics.

– women absent –

Only four women – Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963), Donna Strickland (2018) and Andrea Ghez (2020) – have won the Nobel Prize in Physics since the award was introduced in 1901.

“It reflects the unfair conditions in society, especially in past but still existing years,” Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, told AFP last year.

However, quotas are excluded.

“We want every award winner to be accepted … because they made the most important discovery, and not because of gender or ethnicity,” Hansson said.

Last year, 12 men and one woman won Nobel Prizes, with all scientific credits going to men.

The physics prize is followed by chemistry on Wednesday, and the much-noticed literature and peace prizes are announced on Thursday and Friday.

For the literary prize, critics told AFP they thought the Swedish Academy would go for a mainstream author this year, having chosen lesser-known authors for the past two years.

Last year, Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah won, while in 2020 US poet Louise Gluck was crowned.

In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Peace Prize is likely to be of particular importance this year.

The International Criminal Court, charged with investigating war crimes in Ukraine, was named as a possible winner this year, along with jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

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