Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Nobel Prize with Lox and Cream Cheese

When announcing the three men who one the Nobel Physics Prize for 2016, a committe member illustrated an aspect of their work using a cinnamon bun, a bagel and a Swedish pretzel.

I've still got to do some more reading on what the three men -- David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz -- actually did that won them the prize. It deals with weird states of matter that exist at temperature and pressure extremes and also questions of what physicists and mathematicians call "topology," or the shapes of things and how they relate.

There's no intermediate state between the three snacks that the committee member was talking about, at least in topological terms. The cinnamon bun has no holes, while the bagel has one and the Swedish pretzel has two. There's no "in between" state for the three, where one of them would have 1.5 holes or something like that. That sounds weird, but as a post here at the first of the year noted, topology is kind of a weird discipline.

In any event, it seems like a pretty safe bet that the Nobel Physics committee will win the contest of prize announcements, especially if they brought enough bagels for everybody. On an unrelated note, I am fairly sure I am not the only person who saw Dr. Haldane's picture in the Reuters story and thought he looked like David Crosby.

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