Hong Kong Professor Charles Kao Wins Nobel Prize for Physics

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HONG KONG, Oct. 9 – Chinese University Professor Charles K. Kao has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Kao, along with Willard Boyle and George Smith won the prize for pioneering “masters of light” work on fiber optics and semiconductors, the Nobel jury said.

The Hong Kong-based Kao and his two American counterparts were hailed for creating the two tools that helped unleash the information technology revolution of today.

“This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded for two scientific achievements that have helped to shape the foundations of today’s networked societies. They have created many practical innovations for everyday life and provided new tools for scientific exploration,” the Nobel jury said. One of them is the fiber-optic cable, which enables transmission of data at the speed of light.

Kao, a British and U.S. national who has been based in Hong Kong, was awarded half the prize for “groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication. If we were to unravel all of the glass fibers that wind around the globe, we would get a single thread over one billion kilometers (600 million miles) long – which is enough to encircle the globe more than 25,000 times — and is increasing by thousands of kilometers (miles) every hour,” the jury said on its website.

Kao’s discovery means that text, music, images and video can be transferred around the globe in a split second. Although Kao suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is currently undergoing treatment in San Francisco, he is likely to collect his award at the Nobel prize-giving in December.