We promise that physicist Alain Aspect will grow back his famous mustache for the Nobel Prize in Stockholm on December 10, as he said during the “Quotidien” program on TMC on October 5. Indeed, the attribute that has distinguished him since his youth has given way to a gray beard for a few weeks.
For the rest, at 75 years old, he does not change. Southwestern accent, sparkling eye as he explains with many gestures the behavior of his favorite objects, photons, grains of light… And incredible recollection of the smallest details of the experiences that made him famous and earned him the reward. this year together with the American John Clauser and the Austrian Anton Zeilinger. The three, at different times – the 70s, 80s and 2000s – settled an almost philosophical debate on the interpretation of quantum mechanics, which had been stirring the most brilliant minds for fifty years, including Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr.
Is quantum mechanics, developed in the interwar period to explain the behavior of electrons, atoms, or photons (in short, everything around us!), intrinsically strange or “normal”, seeming strange only because its description is wrong? incomplete, as if he were a magician? Was there a trick left to discover?
“No one believed it”
“The beast resists! It’s strange, but that’s the way it is.”, cut Alain Aspect, fifteenth French Nobel laureate in physics, in his office at the Institute of Optics (in Palaiseau, in Essonne), with the shelves crumbling under the theses of his teachers, classmates or students. The “beast” is quantum mechanics, of which he observed an amazing property, which proves Bohr right against Einstein. If you make, with a bit of finesse, two photons per pair and move them away, their properties will stay linked, even at great distances. Touching one will instantly modify the other with a 100% sure result. It’s quantum entanglement.
“When we approached this question, in the laboratory nobody believed it and some laughed”remembers Philippe Grangier, doing a thesis in 1981 with Alain Aspect, during the first experiments at the Institute of Optics of the University of Paris-Saclay.
To fight against adversity, Alain Aspect displayed several of his qualities. Ingenious, he invented his own components, which did not exist anywhere else, such as a far better photon source than pioneer John Clauser. He had electronic equipment on loan from a CEA laboratory near the Institute of Optics, his ” home “whom he constantly thanks for his support.
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