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Fibre optic pioneers to share Nobel physics prize

David Landes · 6 Oct 2009, 13:15

Published: 06 Oct 2009 13:15 GMT+02:00

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Half of the prize goes to Charles K. Kao, a British and US citizen, for “groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication”.

The other half of the prize will be shared by American George Smith and Willard S. Boyle, a US and Canadian citizen for “the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor”.

Kao’s careful calculations carried out in the 1960s showed how light could be transmitted over long distances by optical glass fibres.

His discoveries led to the eventual mass production of ultra-pure glass fibres which today carry almost all data and telephony traffic around the world in the form of light flowing through thin threads of glass.

Among the types of information which flow across fibre optic cables are digital photographs, which were made possible through discoveries by Boyle and Smith.

Working at Bell Laboratories in the United States, the pair invented the first digital imaging sensor in 1969.

Known as a CCD (Charge-Coupled Device), the technology relies on the photoelectric effect, a theory which maps out how light can be transformed into electronic signals and for which Albert Einstein earned the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Story continues below…

The CCD serves as a digital camera’s “electronic eye”, and helped bring about a revolution in photography by allowing light to be captured digitally rather than on film.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:32 October 6, 2009 by TJSmith
This is great news about fiber optics, but my question is, does fiber optics exist in Sweden? I can't find a job related at all to anything in the fiber optic field in Sweden!
14:03 October 6, 2009 by hpunlimited
There are tons of jobs related to fiber optics in Sweden. I work with fiberoptic cables every day in my field of LANs.
14:03 October 6, 2009 by jackylee
Congratulations for another chinese professor has been granted the prize!
15:18 October 6, 2009 by hopingagainsthope
Congratulations to the three (American) physics researchers working out of Bell Labs in New Jersey for their great accomplishments in fiber optics. The author seems to be at great pains to make nationality an issue.....torturing his words to make it seem anything-but-American. Gosh this kind of stuff is tiresome !! Time to grow up and face the world as it is. Can you also try to avoid reporting the 3 Americans who took the Medicine Nobel Prize?? This rather transparent bias all comes across as just plain cheap.
16:08 October 6, 2009 by Balticcrosser
I don't really see your problem hopingagainsthope.

The article reported the truth - all three are US citizens, but two of them are also citizens of other countries. In addition, British-US citizen Charles Kao made his discoveries while working at a British lab. Why on earth, then, should the article pretend he was only American?

Ultimately, of course, nationality is pretty irrelevant when it comes to these things, but I think your point smacks of chauvinism.
18:47 October 6, 2009 by mkvgtired
hopingagainsthope, the author is just playing to his (or her) audience. On the article reporting the Medical award early on in the comment section one commenter pointed out that one of the researchers was born in Australia and received one of her degrees there. The fact that she did 100% of her research in the US was obviously irrelevant to that poster. Swedes can not stand any positive news originating from the US. Who cares if the US facilitated a platform for this research that benefits everyone, it seems like Swedes will try to strip any credit from America. Very hypocritical since they are forcing their old yet gifted researchers to the US if they want to continue to work.

Balticcrosser, I agree the researcher should be listed as a British citizen if that is where he made the discovery. The same goes for dual citizens who have made their discoveries in the US.
20:12 October 6, 2009 by hopingagainsthope
MKVGTIRED: You sound considerably more experienced with this lot than I am. I would have thought "the audience" that the author of that posting was playing to would be largely expat anglophones from the UK, Ireland, USA, Aussie, NZ, and others who have a world language (English) in addition to Swedish or their native language. I infer that think it is predominantly Swedes, and/or an audience that needs to denigrate. I wonder if The Local's market research has ever explained who actually reads this thing.....or at least who they think reads it.

I've never seen a place that seems to put such a premium on national identification of all kinds of things that are in fact experienced much more widely. Go through a few pages of this site and see how many times "Swedes", "Swedish", "Sweden" appear in contexts that add absolutely nothing necessary to understanding the article. This effort to create uniqueness seems odd, at least.

Could you imagine anyone talking about "Polish Summertime" or "Latvian Autumn" (like "Swedish Summertime"). I get the impression that this population of 1+% of the population of Europe is quicker to compare and contrast itself to world stage players rather than comparable states, or even much larger neighboring states in Europe. Ever read about Belgium or Luxembourg or Switzerland in the mirror of Sweden? Maybe I will but I haven't much. I need to see more.

I've been privileged to live on numerous parts of this planet. I have seen more often than not an inverse relationship between the size of a state and its self-importance. I'll wait to see just how true that is of Sweden. Early returns are all in the wrong direction.
23:35 October 6, 2009 by Frank Zemlyak
For the record, Willard S. Boyle was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia. He studied at McGill University in Montreal and now lives in retirement in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Needless to say, he is the toast of the city today.
00:34 October 7, 2009 by fazoolmein
I think mentioning the country is extremely important. It gives the people of the country something to look up at. I hope the media here is Sweden can also motivate people to look up at people like these, instead of only musicians, dancers, models and the sort.

As Norman Douglas said, "You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements."
04:04 October 7, 2009 by BoweryBoy
Americans have won every Nobel awarded so far this year. People have been immigrating to the US since it's founding in huge numbers for the freedom and the opportunity. Sorry if that can't be accepted but that's the way it is. Everyone here is from someplace else. What should we do? Make exceptions for those individuals who win Nobels? If someone immigrates to the US, becomes a US citizen and receives a special honor then he's not a full fledged American like others who have had lesser accomplishments and his country of origin has first claim on them?

Talk about making oneself look cheap, pathetic and small.
10:27 October 7, 2009 by Balticcrosser
If the individuals concerned have become US citizens but also chosen to retain their original citizenship, then I fail to see why this should not be recorded in a news article about them. It's simply a statement of fact.
13:52 October 7, 2009 by sherkovic
guys with 'beards' winning noble prizes? Isn't the beard sign of fanatism and religious extremism?...ahem ahem or perhaps some religious fanatics been awarded Noble prizes?
14:44 October 7, 2009 by peropaco
The USA is a country that provides everyone the opportunity to florish as it is one of the most inclusive place on earth; at least for the past 60 years. For this reason people from all background, race, origins can expound their potential to the fullest and become Nobel laureates or excell in any field. I wish Sweden would follow suit and utilize the vast majority of people with something to contribute but who instead get casted away because they dont fit the standard or appearance of a Swede.
17:22 October 7, 2009 by mkvgtired
Balticcrosser, that is completely fine, list them as dual citizens. I am just curious why everyone is trying to strip these researcher's American identity when they performed all of their research in the US?
20:44 October 8, 2009 by honorable
Canadian citizen Willard S. Boyle got both his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from McGill University in Montreal. The Medicine 2009 Nobel prize (Jack Szostak) got his B.S. degree from McGill university. Congratulations to both. You make Canadians, Quebecers and Montrealers proud!
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