Physical Science Blog

Nobel Prize in Physics Highlights Superthin Material

From two unusual men comes an unusual material

October 5, 2010

The next time you take a test with a number two pencil, you’re one step closer to a Nobel Prize. Well, maybe not — but this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics recently went to two Russian-born researchers who work with that magical No. 2 substance, graphite. The winners, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, isolated graphene, the world’s thinnest material. Their research has opened up a world of insights into materials science, computer applications and condensed matter physics. But the prizewinners also have some quirks.

The discovery of graphene came from simply sticking graphite to some adhesive tape, and peeling it off. What they made, however, is far removed from the humble yellow pencil — a sheet of graphene, just one atom thick and arranged in a lattice like chicken wire, is actually considered two-dimensional.

As amazing as graphene is, a lot of people are talking about the researchers themselves. At 36 years old, Novoselov is the youngest Nobel laureate in physics since 1973. His partner Geim is the first person to ever win both a Nobel and an Ig Nobel — a parody award for amusing research. And their paper itself is a bit unusual. Unlike last year’s prize, awarded for work done in the 1950s, graphene was only isolated six years ago. Yet in just a few years the article from Science describing their discovery has been cited 3,149 times. So what’s the moral of this year’s Nobel Physics story? Maybe it’s that we should all be a little more quirky.

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About the Author

Rose Eveleth graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.S. in ecology and a minor in writing. She spent the last four years there poking around in labs, studying krill, climbing trees, riding bikes and perfecting her fish doodles. A sucker for being lost in strange places, she recently wandered her way through Costa Rica, Portugal, Tokyo and Bonaire and is excited to take her wandering to the epicenter of strange places, New York City.

Discussion

2 Comments

Well put dear friend. I will be working on my quirkiness, although I am pretty bizarre thus far.

Emanuel says:

The Nobel P Prize for 2010The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel P Prize for 2010 to for his long and non-violent stluggre for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the “fraternity between nations” of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world’s second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Scope for political participation has also broadened.China’s new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lays down that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”. In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.For over two decades, has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging stluggre for human rights in China.Oslo, October 8, 2010

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