“The main practical application of CPA so far has been in the eye surgery. It was the first one, and I think it is the one that is used by the most people for something practical.”

Donna Strickland on the phone this morning with Göran Hansson of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute, after learning that she had shared the Nobel Prize in Physics. CPA is chirped pulse amplification, a technique for producing incredibly short pulses of laser light of very high intensity.

A few minutes before talking with Strickland, Hansson made the announcement:

“This year’s prize is about tools made from light. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has today decided to award the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics with one half to Arthur Ashkin for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems and the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland for their method of generating high-intensity, ultrashort optical pulses.

“Arthur Ashkin was born in 1922 in New York City. He made his remarkable invention at the Bell Laboratories in New Jersey in the United States. Gérard Mourou was born in 1944 in Albertville in France. And he’s currently at the École Polytechnique in Palaiseau in France, and also affiliated with the University of Michigan in the United States.

“Donna Strickland was born in 1959 in Guelph, and she’s currently at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Drs. Mourou and Strickland did much of their groundbreaking work together at the University of Rochester in the United States.”

Physicist Olga Bottner, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, added:

“Today we celebrate two inventions within the field of laser physics that have opened new scientific vistas. But what’s more, have already led to applications of direct benefit to society. Optical tweezers allowing control of tiny living organisms. And an amplification technique enabling construction of high-intensity compact laser systems.”

For an in-depth listen about the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, look for the Scientific American Science Talk podcast later today.

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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