The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Serge Haroche of Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris,
France, and David J. Wineland of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Colorado Boulder, Colo., USA “for groundbreaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.”
In the quantum world, the general understanding is that to measure a single quantum particle will destroy that particle Haroche’s method required trapping photons—individual particles of light—and measuring their quantum properties by sending atoms through the trap.
Wineland approached the problem from the other direction,
trapping electrically charged atoms and measuring their properties with light particles. The results of their work have led to highly precise atomic clocks and provides a foundation that may one day make quantum computing a reality.. These two researchers took different approaches to solve this unique quantum problem, and their efforts have resulted in direct observation of single quantum particles without destroying them.