Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics

A piece of good news has come from Sweden together with the smell of flowers of the fragrant olive in my garden:

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2008 with one half to Yoichiro Nambu, Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, IL, USA, “for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics” and the other half jointly to Makoto Kobayashi, High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), Tsukuba, Japan, and Toshihide Maskawa, Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics (YITP), Kyoto University, Japan “for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature.” (October 7, 2008)

Nambu’s work and that of Kobayashi and Maskawa have long been known to the physics community to be of the Nobel-Prize quality. So their winning of the prize at the same time is really pleasing. At the press conference of last evening, Maskawa said, “I was delighted when the work by Kobayashi and me was experimentally confirmed, but am not glad that I’ve got the prize.” As a humble scientist, I can well understand his feeling.

I wonder one thing about Maskawa. His last name spelled in orthodox romaji (a method of writing Japanese in Roman characters) is Masukawa, but he uses the spelling of Maskawa by leaving out “u” after “s” in his papers. I have had the assumption that he considered the convenience of pronunciation by English speaking people. However, the media reported that he was not good at English. Then he would not have such a consideration as I assumed. Is it that he unintentionally dropped “u” in his first publication, and has continued the same thereafter?

Related sites
  1. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2008, Press Release, (October 7, 2008).
  2. Scientific Background on the Nobel Prize in Physics 2008: Broken Symmetries, compiled by the Class for Physics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (October 7, 2008).
  3. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2008, Information for the Public, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (2008).
  4. Understanding Asymmetrical Universe Garners Nobel Physics Prize for Three Scientists, Inside Science, American Institute of Physics (October 7, 2008).
  5. Nambu, Kobayashi and Maskawa Win Physics Nobel, Scientific American (October 7, 2008).
  6. Three Physicists Share Nobel Prize, New York Times (October 7, 2008).
  7. Particle physicists pick up Nobel Prize, (October 7, 2008).
  8. Nobel Prize in Physics for symmetry breakdown, Nature News (October 7, 2008).
  9. Kobayashi-Maskawa paper in PDF (1973).
  10. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2008: Speed Read − The Importance of Asymmetry, (October 8, 2008).
  11. Profile: Yoichiro Nambu in 1995, Scientific American, Scientific American (October 7, 2008).
  12. A History of Nobel Physicists from Wartime Japan, Scientific American (October 7, 2008).