October 8, 2008

Controversy Hits Nobel Physics Prize

World in brief

STOCKHOLM The award of the 2008 Nobel Prize in physics to two Japanese scientists and a Japanese American for helping explain why the universe is asymmetrical, and thus fit for life, prompted an angry response from Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics yesterday. Half the 10m kroner (800,000) prize went to Yoichiro Nambu and the other to Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa of Japan for their discoveries in spontaneous broken symmetry in sub- atomic physics. Physicists hope their discovery is a step on the way to explaining why the universe is made of matter and not antimatter. But Roberto Petronzio, president of the Italian institute, said the award "fills me with bitterness". The man "universally recognised" as being responsible for the breakthrough that made the work of the two Japanese prizewinners possible, he said, was an Italian physicist, Nicola Cabibbo, "who, in a pioneering manner understood the mechanism of the mixing of the quark, which was then easily generalised" by Dr Kobayashi and Dr Maskawa. Dr Cabibbo made no comment.

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