British trio win Nobel Prize in Physics

"Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said while awarding the 8 million Swedish crown ($937,000) prize to the trio.

David Thouless, an 82-year-old professor emeritus at UW, was honored along with Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz for breakthroughs they made in the 1970s and '80s about unusual states of matter.

"Today's advanced technologies - take, for instance, our computers - rely on our ability to understand and control the properties of the matters, materials, involved".

The release added that by using topology as a tool, the three physicists overturned the current theory that superconductivity or suprafluidity could not occur in thin layers. At a news conference in Stockholm, Thors Hans Hansson, a member of the Nobel physics committee, used a bagel, a pretzel and a cinnamon bun to explain topology. The prize money, which consists of more than United States $931,000, will be shared by the laureates according to their contribution, with one half being awarded to David Thouless, and the other half presented jointly to Michael Kosterlitz and Duncan Haldane. "Now for us these things are different". The number of holes is what a topologist would call a topological invariant. This would make both a doughnut and a cup of coffee pretty similar, as their properties can only change step-wise - it's impossible to have any of these two objects with half holes in them. And the important thing with the hole is that although things like taste or shape or deformations can change continuously but the number of holes, what we call the topological variant, can only change like integers.

Practical applications are still far away - the academy said molecular motors are at the same stage that electrical motors were in the first half of the 19th century - but the potential is huge.

The three scientists began working on the research that would eventually net them a Nobel Prize in the 1970's and 1980's, but judges often wait decades to honor scientific discoveries to ensure they stand up to further research.

"There is no greater honor for a physicist and scholar than winning the Nobel Prize", said Robert Stacey, Dean of the UW College of Arts & Sciences. At least in theoretical subjects, we never share with the objective of discovering something new.

"Like most discoveries, you stumble onto them and you. you just have to realise there's something very interesting there. You stumble on it, and you have the luck to recognise what you've found is something very interesting".