Nobel Prize for Physics Increasingly Dominated by Computing Projects

Almost half of the Nobel Prizes for physics awarded in the 21st century have been computer-related.

Nobel Prize

While there's no Nobel Prize in computing, as such, recent years have seen many of those honored for their achievements in physics make enormous contributions to the advancement of computer technology. Here's a look back at some of the more recent Nobel Prize winners in physics, and how their work has helped the development of modern computing.

MORE: Physics Nobel honors quantum computing pioneers from France and US

Why there's no Nobel Prize in computing

Serge Haroche and David Wineland
Credit: NIST/CNRS Photothèque/Christophe Lebedinsky
2012 – Serge Haroche/David Wineland

Haroche and Wineland were announced as this year's winners on Tuesday, for their interrelated work in the field of quantum research. According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, "their ground-breaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of super-fast computer based on quantum physics."

Credit: Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
2010 – Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov

University of Manchester researchers Geim (who won an Ig Nobel Prize 10 years earlier for levitating a frog) and Novoselov discovered graphene, a molecule-thick carbon material with could be used to build faster transistors.

fiber optics
Credit: Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
2009 – Charles Kao/Willard Boyle and George Smith

A legacy award, 2009's physics prize went to Kao, of the U.K.'s Standard Telecommunication Laboratories and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the team of Boyle and Smith, from the U.S.'s Bell Labs. Jointly, Kao, Boyle and Smith created fiber-optic data technology, the backbone of the modern Internet, in the 1960s and 1970s.

giant magnetoresistance
Credit: Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
2007 – Albert Fert/Peter Grünberg

Fert and Grünberg independently discovered the principle of giant magnetoresistance in 1988 -- a property whereby it is possible to convert weak magnetic changes into large differences in electrical resistance. The phenomenon has been hugely important to the advancement of hard disk read heads, allowing for much higher sensitivities and vastly improved storage density.

Credit: Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
2005 – Roy Glauber/John Hall and Theodor Hänsch

Glauber's theoretical framework helped Hall and Hänsch come up with hyper-accurate frequency measurements, which have led to improvements in clock and GPS accuracy.

integrated circuit
Credit: Wikipedia
2000 – Zhores Alferov and Herbert Kroemer/Jack Kilby

Between them, 2000's three honorees invented much of the basis for modern electronics technology -- including, in Kilby's case, the integrated circuit itself.