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Nobel awarded for using math of shapes to explain exotic matter

Three physicists applied topology to quantum properties of materials in extreme conditions

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2:46pm, October 4, 2016
David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz

TOPOLOGICAL TRIO David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and J. Michael Kosterlitz received the Nobel Prize in physics for their work on theoretical discoveries in exotic states of matter, which were based on the mathematics of topology.

Bagels and pretzels have a lot in common with the physics of certain materials: The snacks illustrated the mathematics behind theoretical descriptions of exotic states of matter, work which won the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics on October 4. David Thouless of the University of Washington in Seattle, J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University and Duncan Haldane of Princeton University received the prize for their research, which predicted new types of materials and spurred interest in the field of topological materials.

Many physicists were surprised by the selection; speculation online predicted that the prize would be awarded for the first detection of gravitational waves (SN: 3/5/16, p. 6), announced on February 11. But the deadline for nominations fell before that date — and researchers typically wait decades for a Nobel nod.

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