The Top Physics Breakthroughs of 2011

Physics World has released its list of the top ten breakthroughs in physics for the year, and it doesn’t include either fast neutrinos or the Higgs boson:

The two physics stories that dominated the news in 2011 were questions rather than solid scientific results, namely “Do neutrinos travel faster than light?” and “Has the Higgs boson been found?”. However, there have also been some fantastic bona fide research discoveries over the last 12 months, which made it difficult to decide on the Physics World 2011 Breakthrough of the Year.

But after much debate among the Physics World editorial team, this year’s honour goes to Aephraim Steinberg and colleagues from the University of Toronto in Canada for their experimental work on the fundamentals of quantum mechanics. Using an emerging technique called “weak measurement”, the team is the first to track the average paths of single photons passing through a Young’s double-slit experiment – something that Steinberg says physicists had been “brainwashed” into thinking is impossible.

If you’d like to know all about the top breakthrough, I Research Blogged it back in June. I think it’s an excellent choice (and not just because I know Aephraim from my days at NIST…): a tremendously cool experiment regarding an important foundational question in quantum mechanics.

And of course, the end-of-year-list format demands that there be at least nine more great physics results, as, in fact, there are. Click through to read the whole list.

One thought on “The Top Physics Breakthroughs of 2011

  1. The two top places go to quantum foundations experiments and both were done in Canada. Not a bad haul.

    I would have put the PBR theorem on the list, but its absence is understandable since they seem to be focussed on experiments rather than theory.

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