Robert Lawrence Kuhn on the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics
There are more attoseconds in one second than there have been seconds in the entire 13.8 billion-year history of our universe. An attosecond is one quintillionth of a second, a billion billionth of a second, ten -18 seconds, 0.000000000000000001 seconds. The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three scientists who developed the laser technology to generate attoseconds pulses of light. These pulses enable observations of astonishing, even unimaginably, brief subatomic events, particular the movements or motions of electrons, whose “quantum jumps” or “quantum leaps” in energy levels between shells in the probabilistic clouds surrounding or orbiting atomic nuclei create chemistry, which in turn creates biology. (Hierarchical explanations, engaging novel ways of thinking, are part of what we seek on Closer To Truth.)
Each of the three scientists made specific contributions: Anne L’Huillier discovered how a laser fired at a noble gas produces “overtones” of light. Pierre Agostini developed a technology that could measure the duration of pulses and generate trains of 250-attosecond pulses. Ferenc Krausz figured out how to isolate a single 650-attosecond pulse.
Attosecond laser pulses have enormous potential. Start with a radically novel way of imaging and studying electrons. Next, the manipulation of individual electrons will engender a new field of “attochemistry”—“designer molecules” that prior would have been inconceivable. Applied to semiconductors, attosecond-speed ON-OFF switching—i.e., ultra-fast starting and stopping the flows of electricity—will empower new kinds of electronic devices vastly faster than current technologies (even taken to their theoretical limits). Krausz is using attosecond pulses to discern minuscule changes in blood cells, which could detect very early-stage cancers and even determine specific kinds of cancer.
Congratulations to L’Huillier, Agostini, and Krausz. Humanity has taken a quantum leap!
And “quantum leaps” are what we try to do—and sometimes what we actually do—on Closer To Truth. CTT’s quantum leaps are, granted, more metaphorical, as we explore Cosmos (cosmology/physics, philosophy of science), Consciousness (brain/mind, philosophy of mind), and Meaning (theism/atheism/agnosticism, philosophy of religion, critical thinking). But we believe CTT’s quantum leaps are real, out there to be found.