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Laser Work Earns Trio Nobel Prize for Physics

The Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to three scientists for their work on optics and high precision measurements using lasers. Roy Glauber, John Hall and Theodor Haensch will share the $1.3 million prize. Engineers have used their observations to improve lasers, Global Positioning System technology and other instruments.

Research by Hall, 71, of the University of Colorado, and Haensch, 63, of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Germany, determined the color of light at the atomic and molecular level. Their work, which used light to measure the internal structure of atoms, helped advance a technique that has been used to an accuracy of 15 decimal places

Their research builds on the fundamental theoretical work of Harvard University's Roy Glauber, who won the other half of the prize for discoveries of how light and matter interact at the subatomic scale. Glauber showed in the 1960s that the particle nature of light affected its behavior under certain circumstances. Although those conditions are rarely observed in nature, they are often relevant in sophisticated optical instruments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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David Kestenbaum
David Kestenbaum is a correspondent for NPR, covering science, energy issues and, most recently, the global economy for NPR's multimedia project Planet Money. David has been a science correspondent for NPR since 1999. He came to journalism the usual way — by getting a Ph.D. in physics first.