Dr. David Wineland of NIST and Professor Serge Haroche of the Collège de France have shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the interaction of matter and light.
Their research, performed independently, on manipulating individual particles while maintaining their quantum state pushed the boundaries of what was understood to be possible when dealing with quantum systems. Dr. Wineland focuses on measuring the properties of atoms or ions using photons, while Professor Haroche takes the opposite approach, trapping light and measuring using atoms.
This work, and the wider research being done in quantum optics, has advanced our understanding of these strange systems greatly in the past 20 years or so. Researchers in this field have taken the first steps towards quantum computing, and contributed greatly to the construction and development of atomic clocks and other extremely precise time-measurement systems, essential for maintaining our highly connected modern society.