Three British physicists, currently working in the United States, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for revealing the secrets of exotic matter.
They researched into the bizarre properties of matter in extreme states, including superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic films.
The winners are Dr. David J. Thouless (82) of the University of Washington, Dr. F. Duncan M. Haldane (65) of Princeton University and Dr. J. Michael Kosterlitz (73) of Brown University.
Dr. Thouless was awarded half of the prize of 8 million Swedish kronor or about $930,000; while Dr. Haldane and Dr. Kosterlitz, shared the other half.
According to New York Times, the scientists relied on advanced mathematical models to study "theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter," in the words of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.
Their pioneering research could be used in future computers and it may have major applications in electronics, materials science and computing.
A physicist at the University of Chicago, Michael S. Turner, described the work as "truly transformational, with long-term consequences both practical and fundamental."
Accordingly, the three laureates sought to understand matter that is so cold or so thin that weird quantum effects overpower the random atomic jostling that dominates ordinary existence. Superconductivity, in which all electrical resistance vanishes in matter, is one example of such an effect.
The key to their success was something called topology, a branch of mathematics focused on the fundamental shapes of things.
At the Nobel news conference in Stockholm, Thors Hans Hansson, a member of the Nobel physics committee, tried to illustrate topology by holding up a cinnamon bun, a bagel and a pretzel.
To a topologist, he said, the only difference between them is the number of holes, as opposed to the characteristics an average person might notice, like saltiness or sweetness. There is no such thing as half a hole, the topologist would note, and the number of holes only changes stepwise in integers.
"The pioneering research is important as it could be used in the next generation of electronics and superconductors -- or even quantum computers," as Nobel Committee member Thors Hans Hansson explained.
In the last decade, this work has led to the development of materials called topological insulators, which conduct electricity on their surfaces but not inside.
During the news conference, it was illustrated that the prize is for theoretical discoveries. It has inspired international research. Scientists are hoping for practical applications in new electronics, new materials and even components for future quantum computers.
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