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U.S. and French Scientists Win Nobel Prize for Quantum Optics

Pictures of Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the U.S. are projected on a screen as the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, announces the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics on October 9, 2012 at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science in Stockholm. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images.

Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the U.S. won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for developing methods to observe, measure and manipulate quantum particles without destroying them. Quantum particles are fantastically small, squirrely things that behave according to mysterious quantum laws. But they lose their bizarre qualities upon interacting with the outside world, which has made them extremely difficult to study.

Wineland, who now works at University of Colorado’s National Institute of Standards and Technology developed a technique that uses laser pulses to measure ions, or electrically charged atoms. Serge Haroche of the College de France controls and measures particles of light photons by sending atoms through a trap.

The research has led to the construction of extremely precise “quantum clocks” and could eventually result in the development of ultrafast quantum-based supercomputers.

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