Chemistry, physics Nobel winners
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (CNN) --
Two U.S. scientists and a Briton,
discoverers of a new form of the element carbon, are the winners of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, the Royal Swedish Academy of
Sciences announced October 9.
That same day, it was announced the Nobel Prize for physics would be awarded to three U.S. scientists for their work in low-temperature physics.
University of Sussex professor Harold W. Kroto and Rice
University professors Robert F. Curl Jr. and Richard E.
Smalley take the chemistry honor for their 1985
discovery of "fullerenes."
"From a theoretical viewpoint, the discovery of the
fullerenes has influenced our conception of such widely
separated scientific problems as the galactic carbon cycle
and classical aromaticity, a keystone of theoretical
chemistry," the academy's citation said.
Fullerenes are formed when vaporized carbon condenses in an
atmosphere of inert gas, and are named for architect R.
Buckminster Fuller. Fullerene clusters resemble Fuller's
famed geodesic domes.
Britain's Kroto said that it was "the greatest day of his
life" to be honored with the Nobel Prize.
"A lot of great scientists don't even dream about this
because the probability of winning it is beyond belief. I'm
totally overwhelmed," said Kroto, who made the initial
discovery and then contacted Curl and Smalley, who confirmed
Physics prize goes for helium isotope research
Physics prize winners David M. Lee, Douglas D. Osheroff and
Robert C. Richardson were cited "for their discovery of
superfluidity in helium-3," the academy said.
The research, conducted in the early 1970s at Cornell
University, showed that the helium-3 isotope became
superfluid -- cold enough that it loses its usual molecular
pattern -- only at a temperature of about two-thousandths of
a degree above absolute zero. At such low temperatures, the
isotope can flow without losing energy to friction, and can
conduct heat efficiently.
Recently, the research has been applied to a theory about
"cosmic strings" -- large objects that may have been
instrumental in the creation of the universe.
"Science is a web, and what happens in one part of the web
influences what happens in another part of the web," said Lee
Wednesday morning. "The discovery itself forms part of the
web of science, the basic research part."
The research was conducted while Osheroff, now in the physics
department at Stanford University, was a graduate student
working with professors Lee and Richardson. The two
professors are still in Cornell's physics department.
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