This year’s Nobel prizes for physics were announced yesterday and went to three scientists for their work in developing blue light emitting diodes, something that has had a big impact on technology because without it, we could not create white light.
At an announcement in Stockholm on Tuesday, the Nobel Prize committee awarded this year’s prize in physics to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura. The three men — Akasaki from Meijo University, Amano from Nagoya University (both in Nagoya, Japan) and Nakamura from UC Santa Barbara — produced blue light beams from their semi-conductors in the early 1990s. Until then, we could create red and green light, but blue remained elusive.
Red, blue, and green light combine to make the bright white produced by LED lightbulbs. Bulbs using blue light-emitting diodes are more efficient and have a longer lifetime than old fashioned bulbs (up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights).
Corey S. Powell takes us back to the huge fuss over the discovery that was awarded the very first Nobel prize in physics, to Wilhelm Roentgen for his accidental discovery of X-rays. While people were excited by it, they worried that it would enable devices like glasses that people could use to see your naked body under your clothes.
This reminded me of the ads that used to appear in comic books, selling eyeglasses that promised to give the user X-ray vision like Superman. I know now that they would never work as advertised but as a small boy was intrigued by them. Since I was in Sri Lanka, I could not order such things but I wonder what they actually did and am curious if any reader ever bought them.
It appears that nowadays there are very expensive versions of these devices that use infrared technology that may actually work like those old ads promised, which is kind of disturbing.