Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to American, Canadian, French scientists

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A trio of American, French and Canadian scientists won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics on Tuesday (Oct 2) for breakthroughs in laser technology that have turned light beams into precision tools for everything from eye surgery to micro-machining.

For the first time since 1949, the Swedish Academy has postponed the announcement of the 2018 Nobel Literature Prize until next year, amid a #MeToo scandal and bitter internal dispute that has prevented it from functioning properly.

The awards, endowed by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, are each worth 9 million kronor ($1m) this year.

Speaking by phone to the academy, a moved Strickland said she was thrilled to receive the Nobel prize that has been the least accessible for women.

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Before her, only Marie Curie and Maria Goeppert Mayer had won the physics prize, in 1903 and 1963 respectively. He started his work on manipulation of microparticles with laser light in the late 1960s which resulted in the invention of optical tweezers in 1986. Although Ashkin, in the mid 1980s, originally meant to use the technique to manipulate atoms, he soon moved onto larger particles and then biological objects, including viruses and living cells. Born in 1922 in NY, he was the first physicist to observe optical gradient forces on atoms and observe optical trapping of atoms, and the first to perform laser cooling of atoms, known as "optical molasses", according to the Optical Society of America.

Science fiction has become a reality. Researchers have even used optical tweezers to make a microscopic reflecting mirror. The prestigious award was given with one half to Arthur Ashkin and the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland. The technique relies on first stretching out short, energetic laser pulses in time, reducing their peak power and allowing them to be safely fed through an amplifier, after which they are finally compressed back to their original size-dramatically boosting their intensity.

Strickland and Mourou will share the other half, after they were singled out for helping develop laser pulses that can be applied to a broad range of industrial and medical devices.

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