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Physics Nobel awarded to Donna Strickland, third woman in history to win
Strickland, whose research helped advance the field of laser science, is the only living female Nobel laureate for physics.
- Strickland, a 59-year-old Canadian physicist, helped develop a technique that led to many laser technologies used today.
- Two other women have won the Nobel for physics; one in 1963, the other in 1903.
- Strickland shares the award and $1 million prize with two other scientists, Arthur Ashkin and Gerard Mourou.
The 2018 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to three physicists, including one female, for their work in advancing laser science. It marks the third time a woman in physics has won the award.
Donna Strickland, a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada and self-described 'laser jock', shares the award and a $1 million prize with Arthur Ashkin, a retired American physicist, and Gerard Mourou, a professor at the École Polytechnique in France and University of Michigan.
In the 1980s, Strickland and Mourou developed a technique called chirped pulse amplification, which produces ultra-short and "ultra-sharp" laser pulses through a three-part process that involves stretching, amplifying and compressing a laser beam. The pair outlined their landmark research, which led to the development of many medical tools including those used to perform laser eye surgery, in a 1985 paper. It was Strickland's first time being published.
Ultra-sharp laser beams make it possible to cut or drill holes in various materials extremely precisely – even in living matter. Millions of eye operations are performed every year with the sharpest of laser beams.#NobelPrize pic.twitter.com/MiYb4i8AHw
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 2, 2018
Female laureates: A very short list
Strickland, who's the only living female Nobel laureate for physics, said it's crazy to think she's only the third woman to have won the prize, the other two being Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who won in 1963 for her work on atomic structure, and Marie Curie who won in 1903 for her research into radioactivity.
"We need to celebrate women physicists because we're out there, and hopefully in time it'll start to move forward at a faster rate. I'm honored to be one of those women," she said in a phone interview with the Royal Swedish Academy.
Strickland wasn't the only scientist surprised by the very short list of female laureates in physics.
"The most thrilling thing for me is to see Donna Strickland share this year's prize," Jim Al-Khalili, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Surrey, told The Guardian. "It is quite shocking to know that she is only the third woman to win a physics Nobel ever... It is also quite delicious that this comes just a few days after certain controversial and misogynistic comments made at a conference at CERN about women in physics."
Al-Khalili was referring to comments made by Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University during a presentation he gave at CERN, the nuclear research center and particle accelerator in Geneva, in which he said physics was "invented and built by men, it's not by invitation."
This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.