Everyone who has ever emailed a picture to a friend has this year’s physics Nobel Prize winners to thank. Two U.S. scientists received the prize for inventing the technology that underlies every digital camera and a Chinese-British scientist shared the prize for making today’s high-speed internet possible.
The U.S. scientists, Willard Boyle and George Smith, work at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J. Their invention of the charge-coupled device underlies every digital camera in use today, from pocket-sized cameras to the Hubble Space Telescope’s pictures of the early universe.
Charles Kao of the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in Harlow, UK, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, figured how to transmit light over long distances, through long strands of glass. By using a very high-quality, pure glass, signals could travel five times farther. This led to the development of the fiberoptic cables that cross oceans and transmit countless bits of information per second.