Top 10 physics breakthroughs for 2013 announced

13 Dec 2013Bristol, UK

The top 10 breakthroughs in physics in 2013, as judged by Physics World magazine, have been announced.

The top spot in the list was taken by the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory for making the first observations of high-energy cosmic neutrinos. Physics World reported on IceCube's observations on 21 November: IceCube finds cosmic neutrinos at the South Pole.

Hamish Johnston, editor of said: "The ability to detect cosmic neutrinos is a remarkable achievement that gives astronomers a completely new way of studying the cosmos. The judges of the 2013 award were also impressed with the IceCube collaboration's ability to build and operate a huge and extremely sensitive detector in the most remote and inhospitable place on Earth". 

Nine other achievements were highly commended and cover topics ranging from nuclear physics to nanotechnology:

Nuclear physics goes pear-shaped: To the international team of nuclear physicists that used the REX-ISOLDE and MINIBALL facilities at CERN to create and study the first pear-shaped nucleus.

Physicists create 'molecules' of light: To Mikhael Lukin at Harvard University and Vladan Vuletić at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues who are the first to create "molecules" of light.

Planck reveals 'almost perfect' universe: To scientists working on the European Space Agency's Planck space telescope for making the most precise measurement ever of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

'Quantum microscope' peers into the hydrogen atom: To Aneta Stodolna of the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands, Marc Vrakking at the Max-Born-Institute in Germany  and colleagues for taking the first direct images of atomic orbitals.

Quantum state endures for 39 minutes at room temperature: To Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University and colleagues for storing quantum information for up to 39 minutes in a solid-state device at room temperature.

US researchers unveil first carbon-nanotube computer: To Max Shulaker and colleagues at Stanford University for making the first carbon-nanotube computer.

B-mode polarization spotted in cosmic microwave background: To astronomers working on the South Pole Telescope for being the first to measure B-mode polarization in the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Laser-cooled Bose–Einstein condensate is a first: To Florian Schreck and colleagues at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information in Innsbruck for creating the first Bose-Einstein condensate to be cooled using just lasers.

Hofstadter's butterfly spotted in graphene: To three groups that have independently made the first measurement of Hofstadter's butterfly in a solid-state system. One group is led by Philip Kim of Columbia University, another is led by Roman Gorbachev of the University of Manchester and another by Pablo Jarillo-Herrero and Ray Ashoori at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The top 10 breakthroughs identified in the list were chosen by the Physics World editorial team, who reviewed over 350 news articles about advances in the physical sciences published on in 2013.

The award was founded in 2009. Last year's winner was the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at CERN for their joint discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the Large Hadron Collider.

Read the full announcement about the 2013 breakthroughs on