Scientists awarded Nobel prize for nearing 'dream'

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The Independent Online

Three American scientists have won the 2004 Nobel Prize in physics for demonstrating the mysterious nuclear force that binds subatomic particles - and explains everything from a spinning coin on a table top to the birth of the universe.

Three American scientists have won the 2004 Nobel Prize in physics for demonstrating the mysterious nuclear force that binds subatomic particles - and explains everything from a spinning coin on a table top to the birth of the universe.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their work had brought physics one step closer to fulfilling a grand dream - to formulate a unified theory comprising gravity as well as a "theory of everything". David Gross, David Politzer and Frank Wilczek found that the attraction between quarks - basic building blocks of nature - was strong when they were far apart and weak when close together.

Dr Gross is from the University of California at Santa Barbara, Dr Politzer is at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Dr Wilczek holds a position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Explaining and understanding the inside of an atomic nucleus can help to explain everything from how a coin spins on a table top to the nature of the stars and galaxies, the Nobel citation said. The three scientists made important breakthroughs in understanding the strong force known as the "colour charge" that dominates the forces within the atomic nucleus.

A grand unified theory of life and the universe has eluded scientists who cannot yet understand the behaviour of subatomic particles.

The three researchers share the £1m prize. "I have no idea what to do with the money, my wife has some ideas," said Dr Gross. "We don't have champagne on ice but it is probably a good idea."

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