The oldest and youngest Physics Laureates, and those in between

At 96 years of age, Arthur Ashkin of the United States, who won one half of the prize, became the oldest Laureate in the 117-year history of the prizes.

The Nobel Prize in Physics announced Tuesday had two interesting winners — at 96 years of age, Arthur Ashkin of the United States, who won one half of the prize, became the oldest Laureate in the 117-year history of the prizes, and Donna Strickland of Canada, who shared the other half with Gerard Mourou of France, became only the third woman ever to win the Physics prize.

The oldest Physics Laureate until now was Raymond Davis Jr who, at age 88, won one quarter of the 2002 prize for “pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic neutrinos”.

The oldest Nobel Laureate of all until now was Leonid Hurwicz who, at age 90, won one-third of the 2007 Nobel Prize in the Economic Sciences “for having laid the foundations of mechanism design

PHYSICS NOBELS BY AGE GROUP: 46-55 is the most productive group

YOUNGEST: William Lawrence Bragg; won one half of the 1915 Physics Nobel along with his father, Sir William Henry Bragg, “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays”
(The youngest Laureate of all was Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17 in 2014)


Tip for Reading List: A Dickensian prison diary

The poor condition of India’s jails, the alleged absence of natural light and fresh air in them, is one of the grounds on which liquor baron Vijay Mallya is fighting extradition to India from the UK. Another fugitive from the law, diamond jeweller Mehul Choksi, who is reported to be in the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, has opposed the CBI’s request to Interpol for a red notice on the ground that conditions in Indian jails are inhuman. The contexts are different, but it is a relevant time for Indian readers to pick up a book on prison conditions elsewhere.

Award-winning journalist and reporter at the venerable Mother Jones magazine, Shane Bauer, has written an extraordinary account of four months he spent as an undercover prison guard at Winn Correctional Centre in rural Louisiana in the United States deep south. The state of Louisiana has hired a private company called Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to run the facility. In 2016, Bauer wrote a 35,000-word exposé on conditions inside the prison that appeared in Mother Jones; he has now reprised that narrative in American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, adding to it, as The New York Times review said, “not only the fascinating back story of CCA, the nation’s first private prison company, but also an eye-opening examination of the history of corrections as a profitmaking enterprise, of which the advent of the private prisons that now house 8 per cent of American inmates is only the latest chapter”.

Also read | Tools made of light, ‘optical tweezers’ and high-power laser pulses

In the introduction to his book, Bauer writes: “We are living through a time of mass incarceration with few parallels in world history. The United States imprisons a higher portion of its population than any country in the world. In 2017 (the US) had 2.2 million people in prisons… (it) has almost 5 per cent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its prisoners”. The book, he writes, “examines how the profit motive has shaped America’s prison system for the last 250 years. Private prisons do not drive mass incarceration today, they merely profit from it… For much of America’s history, racism, captivity, and profit were intertwined”.

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