The latest goings-on in the wider world of physics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced today that the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics, and the accompanying 8 million kronor (£727,000) cash prize, has been awarded to David J. Thouless (50%), F. Duncan M. Haldane (25%), and J. Michael Kosterlitz (25%), “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”.

The Academy explained the significance of the trio’s work in a press release:

This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics.
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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The European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe ended its twelve-year mission today by crashing into its host comet, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (which, York students will be pleased to hear, looks a bit like a giant space duck if you squint right ­– apparently). Thankfully, the collision was deliberate.

When radio contact with the probe was lost abruptly shortly after noon today (UK time), mission controllers in the German city of Darmstadt responded with muted cheers and handshakes, marking the end of the mission that began in March 2004 and hit the news almost two years ago when the Philae lander was successfully landed on the comet’s surface.

I can announce the full success of this historic descent of Rosetta towards Comet 67P.

Farewell Rosetta; you’ve done the job. That was space science at its best.

Patrick Martin, ESA mission manager

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