A Japanese-American theorist whose work helped explain how the cosmos came into being and two Japanese theorists who predicted the existence of a family of exotic particles called quarks will share the 2008 Nobel Prize in physics, the Swedish Nobel Foundation announced Tuesday.
All three studied a curious but essential phenomenon known as broken symmetry, which helps to explain the behavior of matter on the smallest scale, where the everyday laws of physics seemingly break down or are ignored.
Yoichiro Nambu, 87, a Tokyo-born physicist at the University of Chicago’s Enrico Fermi Institute, will receive half the $1.4 million prize for his mathematical description of “spontaneous broken symmetry,” which played a major role in development of the Standard Model of particle physics, which integrates elementary particles and the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces of nature.
Makoto Kobayashi, 64, a researcher at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, or KEK, in Tsukuba, Japan, and Toshihide Maskawa, 68, of Kyoto University’s Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics will share the other half of the award for their explanation of why the breakdown of elementary particles called kaons and B-mesons is not symmetrical, as scientists had once thought it should be.
Political protests grow more violent
Thailand suffered its worst political violence in more than 16 years as police battled protesters who besieged the parliament Tuesday in their struggle to change the country’s system of democracy. One woman died and more than 400 people were injured.
The army moved into the streets of the capital, Bangkok, while most of the protesters eventually left the area around parliament and regrouped on the grounds of the prime minister’s office, which they have occupied since Aug. 26.
The violence heightened the political uncertainty that has bedeviled Thailand since early 2006, when large protests called for Thaksin Shinawatra, the tycoon-turned-prime minister, to step down for alleged corruption and abuse of power.
A September 2006 coup ousted Thaksin, but a military-appointed interim government proved incompetent and scared away foreign investors.
Thaksin’s political allies were restored to power by a December 2007 election, serving only to deepen the split between his rural majority supporters and urban-based opponents, who have made it difficult for the government to function.
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