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Proving the Particles

3 scientists share Nobel Prize in Physics for quantum mechanics work

The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for their work on quantum mechanics and technology.

The trio conducted experiments on particle entanglement, which is when two particles behave similarly and impact one another even when far apart, CNN explains. Their experiments showed that quantum entanglement, a phenomenon Albert Einstein famously called "spooky," was real and not just theoretical. 

Aspect, Clauser, and Zeilinger independently conducted their experiments from France, California, and Austria, respectively, where they studied the behavior of small particles like electrons with respect to quantum entanglement. Entanglement could allow the transfer of information across huge distances between quantum computers, a huge step for quantum information science. As Zeilinger explained, "[Y]ou can transfer all the information carried by an object over to some other place … where the object is reconstituted." This has only been done with small particles so far, he added.

The physicists' work builds off that of 1960s physicist John Stewart Bell, who studied whether particles that had flown too far apart to communicate could still work in concert, The New York Times reports. Quantum mechanics allows for particles to exist simultaneously in two or more places, and a change measured in one particle also shows a change measured in the others.

The Nobel Committee for Physics said the winning trio's findings "laid the foundation for a new era of quantum technology." Their work has otherwise been highly regarded for decades, CNN reports.