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Meet David Wineland, Boulder-based co-winner of the Nobel Prize for physics

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder needs some lessons in publicity. NIST's own David Wineland has just been named co-winner of the Nobel Prize for physics -- an incredibly prestigious honor for Wineland and the facility. Yet at this writing, there's no reference to the award on NIST's main website, and the latest post on the organization's Facebook page announces that yesterday was "Day 2 of Metric Week!" So...who is David Wineland? Here's an introduction.

Below, check out a mini-bio of Wineland courtesy of the Franklin Institute, which recognized him in 2010 for the "theoretical proposal and experimental realization of the first device that performs elementary computer-logic operations using the quantum properties of individual atoms:"

Born in California, David Wineland received his B.S. from UC-Berkeley in 1965 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1970. He joined the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) in 1975, where he remains. He also holds a lectureship at the University of Colorado. In 1973 Wineland caught the attention of the scientific community when he helped to isolate a single electron. At NIST, he went on to perform the first successful laser cooling work -- in 1978 he used lasers to bring magnesium ions down to below 40K. Since then Wineland has continued to be at the forefront of research to use laser-cooled ions to test quantum physics theories and to create the building blocks for quantum computers.

Wineland's awards include the Department of Commerce Gold Medal, the Society of Optical and Quantum Electronics' Einstein Medal for Laser Science, the APS's Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science, the International Award on Quantum Communications, the Optical Society of America's Frederic Ives Award, and the National Medal of Science.

The 2012 Nobel Prize in physics now tops this roster. The bauble was jointly awarded to Wineland and France's Serge Haroche for what NobelPrize.org calls "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems."

National Public Radio's Richard Harris puts the accomplishment in layman's terms in a report this morning. In his words, Wineland and Haroche figured out how to "observe and manipulate subatomic particles without destroying them" -- an important accomplishment, since it can lead to breakthroughs in quantum computing, among other things.

Here's the NPR report for more information.

Turns out, though, that Wineland is able to explain his theories all by his lonesome, as he does on a number of videos we discovered. Check out a trio of clips featuring Wineland discussing quantum computation, atomic clocks and more. They should tide you over until NIST gets around to ballyhooing America's latest Nobel laureate.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Shirin Ebadi comes to Denver as another Nobel Peace Prize winner pulls out of Chicago summit."


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