The Noble Week - Physics 
Today the Nobel Prize in Physics 2008 was awarded. The prize is shared by Yoichiro Nambu, USA for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics and Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, Japan for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature.

The works from the winners are related to a fundamental description of nature at the subatomic particle level through what is known as broken symmetries. In the early 1960s, Yoichiro Nambu developed a mathematical description of what is known as spontaneous broken symmetry related to subatomic particles. The breaking of symmetry scrambles the underlying order of nature. Nambu’s work was instrumental in some unscrambling, namely the later unification of three of the four basic forces—the weak force, strong force and electromagnetism.

Makato Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa discovered different broken symmetries in the early 1970s, which predicted the existence of three kinds of quarks, which were later discovered. Their kind of broken symmetry is at the heart of the Big Bang. Full symmetry would have snuffed the Big Bang, but a tiny deviation of an extra matter particle for every 10 billion matter-antimatter particle pairs is apparently what allowed the universe to come into existence.

One might wonder what this kind of research is good for. Well, many people was wondering the same in the early 19th century when physicists was investigating in electricity what that would be good for. So maybe in the future there will be something out of this that will affect everybody’s everyday life.



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