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This article is from the In-Depth Report The 2009 Nobel Prizes
60-Second Science

Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2009 Nobel Prize in physics goes to Charles Kao of Standard Communications Labs in England and the Chinese University of Hong Kong for the invention of practical optical fiber communication, and George Smith and Willard Boyle of Bell Labs in New Jersey, for inventing the charge-coupled device, the CCD, making digital cameras possible. Steve Mirsky reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

The Nobel Prize in physics goes to Charles Kao, of Standard Communications Labs in England and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and George Smith and Willard Boyle of Bell Labs in New Jersey. Kao figured out how to transmit light over long distances in optical glass fibers. From the official announcement: “Today, more than a billion kilometers of optical fiber around the world forms the backbone of modern global communication.”

In 1969, Smith and Boyle made your digital camera possible by inventing the charge-coupled device, the CCD: “This device allows electronic recording of images and it replaces the photographic film in cameras. The CCD records the image as a distribution of charge in small cells or pixels, and it outputs the image as a series of digital numbers. The CCD is a crucial component of advanced cameras, and it finds numerous applications in scientific and medical equipment. For example, it gives us the spectacular images of the universe that we can see today.”

—Steve Mirsky

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