[scientific american] The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics will be split among three researchers who laid the groundwork in the 1960s for today's digital-media and telecommunications infrastructure. The Nobel Foundation announced the prizewinners in a news conference this morning from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.
Half the prize will be awarded to Charles Kao, formerly of Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in Harlow, England (now Nortel), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kao was an early pioneer in the field of fiber optics, the transmission of information over flexible glass fibers.
He realized that by eliminating impurities in glass, the material would form an ideal medium for the propagation of high-frequency light. At the time of his early work, according to the Nobel committee, only 1 percent of light would survive passage through a 20-meter fiber, but in today's glass fibers 95 percent of transmitted light perseveres after a kilometer.
Nobel Prize in Physics Goes to Pioneer in Fiber Optics and Inventors of Digital Image Sensor