We know that most people don’t appreciate being woken up in the morning, but we might have finally found the exception to that norm. About a week ago, on Oct. 9, David Jeffrey Wineland was woken up by his wife to the tune of a cool $600,000.
Oh, and the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics just happened to come along as a nice byproduct.
Though it’s been in place for more than 100 years, most of us remember the Nobel Prize for its questionable decisions – see Barack Obama, 2009 – but we now have another reason to remember it. Wineland was a Berkeley undergraduate in the 1960s and went on to study at Harvard and the University of Washington. But focusing on the important school out of the three, let’s reiterate — he got his bachelor’s degree at Cal!
Warning: This is about to get technical for 100 words, so feel free to skip ahead if you wish.
Wineland did his work on the superposition of quantum states, where he used electrical fields to hold charged atoms in place and laser beams to manipulate them — whatever that means. This is supposedly groundbreaking for quantum computing, even though he said in an interview that it’s going to be “a long way before we have a useful quantum computer.” He also threw around elements like mercury and aluminum and mentioned how these would be important for navigation and clocks – you know, as if the clocks we have right now weren’t good enough. In an effort assumedly to endear himself to the students of his first alma mater, he did mention the environment and its importance in his research as well.
Considering that we understood just as much as you did among all that science jargon, we’re pretty impressed by how smart this guy is. If you did happen to understand what in the world that was all about, you can attempt to decipher any of his YouTube videos under QuantumIQC. Wineland described getting the prize — though he actually shared it with Serge Haroche of France, which more importantly resulted in splitting the winnings — as a “wonderful surprise.” Sounds like a guy who’s quite used to winning prizes — oh wait, did I mention that he’s won the National Medal of Science that was given to him by some guy named George W. Bush? He has also won more or less every honor that’s been named after a smart and famous person, among them the Einstein Prize and the Benjamin Franklin Medal.
On top of all this, he’s a humble dude. He attributed his success to “being around very good people” — this is probably a shout-out to his roots here in Northern California — and admitted that his field is a “big enterprise by now” and that there are plenty of people working on the kinds of things he’s doing.
He brings the total to 29 Berkeley alumni who have won the prize, adding to the other 50 Berkeley affiliates — faculty included — who have been bestowed with the honor, which is way more “gold” than any other public school can claim.
He started out like any one of us here at Cal. So, what’s stopping any of us from being number 30 of this prestigious group? Besides, that prime parking in the middle of the campus looks like a pretty good incentive.
Image source: OZinOH under Creative Commons
Tags:Berkeley Undergraduate, David Jeffrey Wineland, Nobel prize, physics
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