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Who has won the Physics Nobel—and what for?

Haldane, Kosterlitz and Thouless did work at the "tip of a branch that joins the core of physics very close to the trunk"

By Philip Ball  

©Mel Evans/AP/Press Association Images

If it weren’t for the fact that my fellow science communicators relish a challenge, I would say that the physics Nobel committee has done them no favours. The work of this year’s laureates—Duncan Haldane, John Michael Kosterlitz and David Thouless, all of them British but all now working in the USA—concerns processes called topological phase transitions, and you could spend precious column inches explaining both the adjective and…

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