Speed Reads

Nobels

British trio awarded Nobel Prize in physics

On Tuesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics to three British physicists — with half the prize shared by David J. Thouless and F. Duncan M. Haldane and the other half going to J. Michael Kosterlitz — "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter." The three scientists "opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states," the academy explained, using "advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids, or thin magnetic films."

"The Nobel Assembly speaker has brought out a cinnamon bun, a bagel, and pretzel to explain what topology means," report Hannah Devlin and Ian Sample at The Guardian. "He says that if you are a topologist there is only one interesting way in which these pastries differ — the bun has no hole, the bagel has one, and the pretzel has two. Well that makes everything crystal clear then." All three laureates are currently affiliated with U.S. universities: Thouless at the University of Washington in Seattle, Haldane at Princeton, and Kosterlitz at Brown.