First woman in 55 years wins physics Nobel prize

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Ashkin, who at age 96 sets a record as the oldest Nobel victor in the award's 112-year history, shares the award with Gérard Mourou of both École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France, and the University of MI; and Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo, Canada, for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.

A trio of American, French and Canadian scientists have won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics for breakthroughs in laser technology that have turned light beams into precision tools for everything from eye surgery to micro-machining.

Arthur Ashkin invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers. Frenchman Gérard Mourou of the École Polytechnique and University of MI shares half of the prize's $1 million with Strickland; Ashkin gets the other half.

Ashkin's optical tweezers are the real life version of Star Trek's tractor beams-although they're capable of grasping and manipulating only very small objects, like a single cell, not a whole shuttle craft.

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They paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind.

The high-intensity lasers are now used in eye surgeries, data storage and to investigate subatomic particles at resolutions never before realized. And hopefully in time it'll start to move forward at a faster rate, maybe.

Strickland, 59, is the third woman who won the prize since 1901.

There were also lighter moments at Strickland's news conference, including when university president Feridun Hamdullahpur was asked whether Strickland's win was enough to vault her to the position of a full professor - he said there was a process for all to follow.

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Last year's physics prize went to three Americans who used abstruse theory and ingenious equipment design to detect the faint ripples in the universe called gravitational waves. But the Nobel Prize has made special efforts to identify women scientists to be nominated for the prize. Arthur Ashkin of the United States and Canadian Donna Strickland also share the prize.

"It's somewhat thinking out of the box to stretch first and then amplify", said Dr. Strickland. Eva Lindroth, member of the Class for Physics at The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, told Xinhua in an interview after the announcement. He studied in a Cornell physics department that included professors Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman, who both won the Nobel Prize in physics (Bethe in 1967, Feynman in 1965). Ashkin focused the light further with a lens, intensifying the effect.

Goeppert-Mayer, whose work was cited in Strickland's own award-winning efforts, went largely unpaid throughout her career. "So that was my first thought and you do always wonder if it's real", Strickland said during a press briefing this morning at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Sweden.

The awards, endowed by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, are each worth 9 million kronor ($1m) this year. The Nobel Prize Committee described the work creating CPA as "both simple and elegant".

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