With his wife, two daughters and son in a crowd of luminaries from all over the world, Kosterlitz stood on the stage at the Stockholm Concert Hall as King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden handed him his diploma and gold medal as winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics.
After traveling to the U.K., he established himself as a prominent researcher in brain physiology. “You don’t know the problem is insoluble, so you go ahead and do it.”. So I started working on some of the ideas he was throwing out, and basically things worked out.”. My parents, Hans Walter and Johanna Maria Kosterlitz (Gresshöner) had fled Hitler’s Germany in 1934 because my father, a non-practicing Jew, came from a Jewish family and was forbidden to marry a non-Jewish woman like my mother or to be paid as a medical doctor in Berlin. Jim Valles, another Brown physicist, relishes the chance to work side-by-side with a man whose work inspired him at a formative period in his career, when he first started graduate school.
It was during his time at Torino that a bit of a blunder put Kosterlitz on a path that would eventually lead to the Nobel Prize. I found myself in David Thouless’s office where he was telling me all about superfluid helium films, crystals, dislocations, vortices — all concepts that were completely new to me. Experimentalists had shown that below a certain critical temperature, thin films of helium underwent a phase transition to a superfluid, a state in which it flows without friction.
Four decades ago, when Kosterlitz started investigating the idea of phase changes, he had no idea where it might lead. His colleagues in the Brown Physics Department, where Kosterlitz has worked since 1982, describe him as not only a brilliant theorist with a deep love of physics, but also as a kind, caring and humble man who has never been one to seek the limelight. “I suppose you could take a lesson from this and say that sometimes ignorance is a good thing,” Kosterlitz said.
“His final sentence was, ‘Life as you know it is now over,’” Kosterlitz said.
But analogous structures could form in solid systems, in the arrangement of electron spins. Their daughters, Karin and Elisabeth, and their son, Jonathan, all made the trip Stockholm. Sections of this page. It’s not something that’s hidden in a dark room.”. One of the first messages of congratulations Kosterlitz received came from another Nobel Laureate, who tried to prepare him for what’s to come.
“It takes some of the pressure off me,” Cooper joked. He had been studying high-energy physics, a branch dealing with elementary particles and forces that govern their behavior.
He shares the award with Thouless and Duncan Haldane. In a liquid system, these vortices are like the swirls that form when water goes down a bathtub drain. It’s really great to have people like that next to you that you can discuss and talk about physics.”. But how phase transitions could work in two dimensions was a mystery. Lately, he’s thinking about problems in nonequilibrium physics. The life of the man who helped explain the physics of phase changes has undergone a phase change of its own. Berit Kosterlitz is on Facebook. Join Facebook to connect with Berit Kosterlitz and others you may know. “He really deserves it.
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“I’m quite pleased about the whole thing,” he said at a news conference following the October announcement.
The new Laureates received their Nobel medals earlier, with the Nobel Prize Banquet following at Stockholm City Hall. “But everything seems to be real, so I guess I will have to assume that it is and proceed accordingly.”. In the past decade, the Kosterlitz-Thouless theory has informed the development of materials that could be helpful in making next-generation electronic devices and quantum computers. It's been just as exciting for students. “We’re doing some work currently where we’re citing Mike again and one of his former Ph.D. students,” Valles said. Kosterlitz and Thouless showed that while two-dimensional systems did lack the kind of long-range order dictated by the theorem, they had a different kind of order enforced by the arrangement of tiny vortices that form within a system. His father, Hans Kosterlitz, who was Jewish, fled Germany in 1934 during the rise of the Nazis.
Cooper, who has firsthand experience in navigating the Nobel Week festivities, encouraged Kosterlitz to relax and take it all in.
“I had been doing long tedious calculations for very little return, and I was getting a bit fed up,” he said. “Those experiments were staring us in the face,” Kosterlitz said.
Lacking order, a phase change that affected the whole of a two-dimensional system would be impossible.
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