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Matin Durrani: May 2010 Archives

By Matin Durrani

Martinus ? ? Veltman

It’s Friday afternoon here at Physics World HQ, and my colleagues and I were just looking at the programme for the 2010 Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany — an annual bash where Nobel prize-winners and students from around the world meet up to chew the fat and think big thoughts.

This summer’s meeting features laureates from all disciplines but there are stacks of physicists among them.

The programme looks great — but what caught our eye was that German organizers have very kindly included the middle names of all the laureates who are speaking.

So here’s our quiz for today. Just for fun, it’s your job to guess the middle names of the following laureates. In each case we’ve given a clue.

John Mather — shared the 2006 prize with George Smoot for their work on the anisotrophy of the cosmic background radiation (CMB)
Clue: think English Civil War.

George Smoot — see above
Clue — think The Great Gatsby

Robert Wilson — shared the 1978 prize for discovering the CMB
Clue — think a US president with the same last name.

James Cronin — shared the 1980 prize for symmetry violation in K-mesons
Clue — think a Nobel prize-winning biologist with the same first name.

Martinus Veltman — shared the 1999 prize for electroweak interactions
Clue — he has two middle names. Er, think Latin.

Robert Laughlin — shared the 1998 prize for fractional quantum fluids.
Clue — what he does if he puts money on it.

Add your comments below. I’ll update the blog in a day or two with the answers. In the meantime, no Googling — where’s the fun in that?

Update: Monday 31 May
OK so here are the answers: John Cromwell Mather, George Fitzgerald Smoot, Robert Woodrow Wilson, James Watson Cronin, Martinus Justinus Godefriedus Veltman, Robert Betts Laughlin.

By Matin Durrani


Regular users of this site will be well aware that we are currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser.

It was on 16 May 1960 that Theodore Maiman – then a 32-year-old engineer-turned-physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories in the US – eked out the first pulses of light from a pink-ruby crystal, since which the laser has become a workhorse of physics and ingrained in everyday life.

To celebrate the laser anniversary, we’re offering a free PDF download of the May issue of Physics World (right), which you can get by following this link.

Packed with great laser features, we relive the race to build the world’s first working laser – a story still laced with controversy. Find out about the technological impact of lasers in fibre optics and the quest for green-wavelength laser diodes that could let mobile phones project images onto any surface.

Basic research gets a look-in, too – in terms of both ultrahigh power lasers to promote fusion as well as ultrafast lasers that can probe the motions of atoms and molecules. And don’t miss our special, colour-coded timeline of laser history.

And if that’s not enough, don’t forget you can also view a series of great video interviews with leading laser experts via the multimedia channel.

If I can recommend just one of the videos, it’s the one with Tom Baer, former president of the Optical Society of America, in which he overviews 50 years of laser physics, and makes some predictions about the next 50. Watch it here.

Of course, we’re not the only ones to be marking the laser anniversary. Thanks to the efforts of my colleague Joe Winters at the Institute of Physics press office, today’s edition of the Sun – the UK’s best-selling newspaper – has a great article marking the laser anniversary. Check it out via this link.

But don’t spend too long at the Sun – for the real deal on lasers, you really mustn’t miss the May issue of Physics World.