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Nobel Prize comes as ‘big surprise’ to British scientist Michael Kosterlitz

October 06, 2016, 23:36 UTC+3 HELSINKI

Michael Kosterlitz said he thought his work was "good enough" but assumed it wasn't going to happen

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Michael Kosterlitz

Michael Kosterlitz


HELSINKI, October 6. /TASS/. The Nobel prize in physics was to a certain extent unexpected for British scientist Michael Kosterlitz, now making his daily life "progressively more and more chaotic," the scientist who has come to work at Finnish Aalto University for a few months told TASS in Helsinki on Thursday.

"I thought the work was good enough that it could be a Nobel prize. But it has been such a long time since we did it that I just assumed it wasn't going to happen. In that sense it was a big surprise," he said.

On October 4, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 to Michael Kozterlitz and his two colleagues - David Thouless and Duncan Haldane, crediting them "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter".

"At first it started off as a purely theoretical problem - to try to reconcile a mathematical theory which seemed to imply that there cannot be phase transition in certain two-dimensional systems with some experimental observations that there seemed to be a phase transition from let's say a solid to a fluid," Michael Kosterlitz said.

"There was an interesting theoretical problem to try to explain why this rigorous mathematical theory is not relevant to the problem," the scientist explained.

"Then some experiments started appearing on such two-dimensional systems in for example thin films of superfluid liquid helium and there were some experiments on crystals and eventually on clouds of cold atoms," he went on.

"And the behavior of all these systems could be explained in terms of our theory. For practical things - devices and so on I don't know where it will be applicable. But it explains for example why (there is) superconductivity in a very thin film of material - I guess it's a valid device thing and so on. If certain system has two dimensions then this theory is applicable to it. But realizing some real system in two dimensions is not easy," the Nobel Prize winner said.

He said he came to Finland "to learn from them (scientists at Aalto University), they've been doing some interesting work on various content devices and I came to learn about these systems".

"But life seems to have taken over and I haven't had a chance to talk to them about their work. Since the news about Nobel prize life has been getting progressively more and more chaotic," he said. "I'm getting a lot of phone calls but what is worse - at the moment my email box has almost a thousand emails and I don't know when I can deal with that," Michael Kosterlitz regretted.

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