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Saturday, October 17, 2009

2009 Nobel Prize in Physics

The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2009 has been given to three American scientists, for their work over the past few decades in fiber optics and the technology responsible for digital photography, which lies in something called a charge coupled device (CCD). The scientists are Charles Kao, Willard Boyle, and George Smith.

An enormous chunk of modern technology we take for granted exists only because of their work. For example, much of the ETHS computer network backbone is fiber optics, and new lines put in globally to expand the Internet backbone is fiber optic, as well as phone lines that are put in the ground (yes, your voice is ultimately transmitted as light!). There are fiber optic computers being developed, and particle and nuclear physicists have used fiber optics in detectors for some period of time. The CCD is in every digital camera, cell phone, telescope, and numerous types of satellites. CCDs are able to take photons falling on them and convert it into electrical signals, which can then be used to digitize data. Because we see final products as 'black boxes,' most people do not understand how modern electronic devices and the Internet work...this prize and the publicity it generates will help educate people a bit more so they can hopefully better appreciate the role science plays in our lives.

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