First woman in 55 years wins physics Nobel prize

Jean-Claude Arnault arrives at the district court in Stockholm

Frenchman Gérard Mourou of the École Polytechnique and University of MI shares half of the prize's $1 million with Strickland; Ashkin gets the other half.

The other half will jointly go to Gerard Mourou, from Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, and the University of MI in Ann Arbor, and Donna Strickland, of the University of Waterloo, Canada, "for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses".

Both inventions had "revolutionized laser physics", the Royal Swedish Academy said.

Dr Strickland and Dr Mourou helped to develop short and intense laser pulses that have broad industrial and medical applications. The interesting thing about Ashkin's tool (Apart from the fact that it is made of frigging light!) is that it can be used to reach right inside a cell without damaging the living systems.

Their work paved the way for laser eye surgery to improve vision and studies that can manipulate cells and their innards.

A Canadian professor ended a 55-year drought for female physicists when she was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for physics on Tuesday, becoming only the third woman to ever win it.

"The fact that she's a woman is great for encouraging young women to pursue careers in science", she said.

Strickland said her first thought on hearing she'd won was "it's insane". Lasers had been invented around two decades earlier but had hit an intensity plateau because a laser beam that was too powerful could destroy the material used to amplify it.

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Mourou, who is from France, and Strickland from Canada, jointly received the award "for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses".

Shortly before the announcement of the award, a physicist gave an "offensive" lecture at the Cern particle physics laboratory in Geneva in which he stated that physics was "built by men" and that male scientists were being discriminated against.

Meanwhile, Canadian physicist Strickland and her PhD supervisor Mourou, a French electrical engineer, were instrumental in the development of chirped pulse amplification. "Really? I thought there might've been more", Strickland replied.

While laser eye surgery is the most familiar application of their work, it has also let scientists probe fundamental forces acting within matter at very high temperatures and pressures, Moloney said.

The Nobel comes with an award of 9 million Swedish kronor (roughly $1 million). Strickland is just the third female Nobel physics laureate, and first since 1963; there have been 210 winners in all.

The oldest winners of the prizes established by the will were 88 - Doris Lessing for literature and Raymond Davis for physics. The prize was first awarded in 1901.

2017 - Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish earned the award for the detection of gravitational waves.

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