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Duly Noted

Thursday, Oct 11, 2012, 2:19 pm

Civil Servant Shares Nobel Prize in Physics

By Lindsay Beyerstein

Next time some Republican starts griping about lazy public employees sucking up taxpayer dollars, remind them of Dave Wineland, a 37-year veteran of the Department of Commerce, who shared this year's Nobel Prize in physics:

Wineland’s award, which he shares with Serge Haroche of the Collège de France and École Normale Supérieure in Paris, is “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.”

That means Wineland’s work helps us to tell time and keeps us from getting lost, among other things.

“One of the many amazing things about Dave and his work is that while he is at the absolute frontier of research in quantum mechanics, all his work is directly applicable to innovations and technologies that are regularly used, or will be in the future,” Tom O’Brian said by e-mail. He is chief of NIST’s time and frequency division and Wineland’s boss.

Wineland's discoveries help us find our way with GPS and keep time with atomic clocks.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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