Nobel Prize In Physics Split Three Ways

In 1901 the first Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Wilhelm Röntgen for his discovery of X-rays. In more recent years, the Physics Nobel Prize has been awarded for pioneering discoveries and groundbreaking inventions. Although this years winners may seem to have been awarded the prestigious prize for things relating to today’s technology, when they made their discoveries, they were used for things more focused compared to their scope now.

One Half of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Charles Kao, a British and U.S. citizen who was born in Shanghai in 1933. He made a key discovery in 1966, the Nobel committee says:

He) carefully calculated how to transmit light over long distances via optical glass fibers. With a fiber of purest glass it would be possible to transmit light signals over 100 kilometers, compared to only 20 meters for the fibers available in the 1960s. Kao’s enthusiasm inspired other researchers to share his vision of the future potential of fiber optics. The first ultrapure fiber was successfully fabricated just four years later, in 1970.

Fiber Optic research actually was pioneered as early as the 1800’s and progressed over the years to the 1920’s  when engineered by tv and radio pioneers. The technology was first widely used for medical examinations. In 1963, the first suggestion of use for communications was made but it was Charles Kao who was able to attenuate the fibers removing all purities enough that fiber optics could be used for reliable and long distance communication .Today there is enough fiber optic cable in existence  to wrap around the world 25,000 times.

The Other Half was split between Willard Boyle, a Canadian and U.S. citizen, and American George Elwood Smith. According to the committee, in 1969 they:

Invented the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor, a CCD (Charge-Coupled Device). The CCD technology makes use of the photoelectric effect, as theorized by Albert Einstein and for which he was awarded the 1921 year’s Nobel Prize. By this effect, light is transformed into electric signals. The challenge when designing an image sensor was to gather and read out the signals in a large number of image points, pixels, in a short time.

The CCD is the digital camera’s electronic eye. It revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film.

When first invented, the CCD was used primarily for one purpose, Spy Satellites. Back in the Day the spy satellites used regular film cameras. After the film was used, it was ejected dropped from the satellite to a plane below which would catch the it in an extended net.  It revolutionized the way picture data could be sent electronically as a beam from such satellites.Now almost every cell phone, digital camera and photoscanning device uses this and it is old hat.

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