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Harvard Professor Wins Nobel Prize

Bob Oakes interviews Roy Glauber about the work that won him a Nobel prize, Tuesday.

Roy Glauber, 80, of Harvard University, took half of this year's Nobel for showing in the 1960s how the particle nature of light affects its behavior under certain circumstances. Although those conditions are rarely observed in nature, they are often relevant in sophisticated optical instruments.

Americans John L. Hall and Roy J. Glauber and German Theodor W. Haensch won the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for work that could lead to better long-distance communication and more precise navigation worldwide and in space.

The prize was given to the three for their work in applying modern quantum physics to the study of optics. Engineers have used their observations to improve lasers, Global Positioning System technology and other instruments.

Sune Svanberg, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics, said Glauber can rightly be considered the father of quantum optics, and that his theories paved the way for the discoveries made by Hall and Haensch.

Until Glauber published his theories in 1963, scientists had dismissed the idea that the quantum theory, originally developed by Albert Einstein, could be applied to the field of optics.

"There were completely different ideas back then about how to view this," Svanberg said. "His results are fundamental for our modern understanding of the behavior of light."

Of the six Nobels, the physics prize has perhaps the broadest scope of research, making speculation ahead of the announcement difficult.

Alfred Nobel, the wealthy Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite who endowed the prizes, left only vague guidelines for the selection committee, saying in his will that the prize should be given to those who "shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind" and "shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics."

(AP writers contributed to this story.)

This program aired on October 4, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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