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"When Time Seems Smaller: Nobel Prize Awarded to Attosecond Physicists"

The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L'Huillier. According to the Nobel Committee, their experiments have provided humanity with innovative tools for exploring the behavior of electrons inside atoms and molecules. They pioneered a technique for generating extremely brief pulses of light, enabling the measurement of rapid electron movements.

Pierre Agostini, a French researcher, works at Ohio University, Ferenc Krausz, an Austrian-Hungarian scientist, is affiliated with the Max Planck Institute at the University of Munich, and Anne L'Huillier, a Franco-Swedish scientist, is based at Lund University in Sweden.

The Nobel citation highlights that these laureates produced light pulses so short that they can be measured in attoseconds, showcasing their potential for visualizing processes within atoms and molecules.

This Nobel Prize was conferred for fundamental research, unveiling the workings of a natural phenomenon without immediate practical applications in mind. Nevertheless, the study of electron dynamics could potentially find applications in fields like electronics and medical diagnostics in the future.

In the realm of electrons, as explained by Nobel experts, changes frequently occur on timescales of a few tens of attoseconds. An attosecond is so brief that there are as many attoseconds in one second as there are seconds in the entire lifespan of the universe.


Anne L'Huillier received the Nobel Committee's call while she was teaching a class. Despite numerous calls, she excitedly admitted that it wasn't easy to conclude her lecture.

The Nobel Prize was established in 1901, following the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and engineer renowned for inventing dynamite in 1867. Alfred Nobel was deeply affected by an explosion that claimed his brother Emil's life.In 1888, following the death of his other brother Ludvig, a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred's obituary with the headline, "The merchant of death is dead." This incident had a profound impact on him, leading him to establish a prize intended "for those who have conferred the greatest benefit to humanity."The Nobel Prize includes a cash award of 11 million Swedish crown, which is distributed among the winners. An additional one million crowns were added this year due to inflation and currency devaluation.


The Nobel laureates are selected annually by the Nobel Committee in Stockholm. Committee members invite a select group of experts in the respective fields, including previous Nobel laureates, to nominate candidates. The Committee then makes the final selection from the nominations. The laureates are invited to Stockholm for a grand ceremony on December 10th, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death in 1896, attended by the King of Sweden.

What is an attosecond?

An attosecond is an extremely short unit of time. One attosecond is equivalent to one quintillionth of a second, or 10^-18 seconds. It's a fraction of time so incredibly brief that it's challenging to grasp.

To provide you with a sense of its brevity, you can consider that there are more attoseconds in one second than there have been seconds elapsed since the beginning of the universe up to the present day. Attoseconds are frequently used in physics and chemistry to study and measure ultrafast processes at the subatomic level, such as the movement of electrons inside atoms and molecules. The capacity to generate light pulses as short as attoseconds has opened up new avenues for observing and comprehending the swiftest natural processes.

Units of time

"Einstein taught us that time is relative, and its dilation can make a moment pass like an eternity or an eternity like a moment, all depending on the speed at which you travel." - Michio Kaku

Second: The second is one of the most fundamental units of time measurement and has historically been based on the duration of one Earth day, divided into 24 hours, each with 60 minutes, and each minute with 60 seconds. In 1967, the official definition of the second was revised and based on atomic phenomena, such as the oscillations of a cesium atom, leading to the creation of the atomic second.

Millisecond: A millisecond is a fraction of a second equivalent to one thousandth (1/1000) of a second. It is often used to measure very short times, such as the response time of a computer or electronic device.

Microsecond: A microsecond is a fraction of a second equivalent to one millionth (1/1,000,000) of a second. It is used in many scientific and technological applications, such as measuring the speed of light in optical fibers.

Nanosecond: A nanosecond is a fraction of a second equivalent to one billionth (1/1,000,000,000) of a second. It is commonly used to describe the speed of operations in digital electronics and to measure delay times in electronic devices.

Picosecond: A picosecond is a fraction of a second equivalent to one trillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000) of a second. It is used in many scientific applications, such as molecular dynamics and the study of ultrafast processes.

Femtosecond: A femtosecond is a fraction of a second equivalent to one quadrillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000,000) of a second. It is primarily used in scientific research to study ultrafast events, such as changes in atomic and molecular structures.

Attosecond: An attosecond is a fraction of a second equivalent to one quintillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000) of a second. It is one of the shortest units of time ever measured and is used to study the fastest processes inside atoms and molecules.

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