Laughlin, Robert Betts

Laughlin, Robert Betts, 1950–, American physicist, b. Visalia, Calif., Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1979. Laughlin was a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1981 to 2004, and has been a professor at Stanford since 1989. Laughlin was co-recipient, with Horst Störmer and Daniel Tsui , of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics. Störmer and Tsui had discovered that electrons acting together in strong magnetic fields can form new types of quasiparticles that have just a fraction of the electrical charge an electron is supposed to have. In 1983, Laughlin provided the theory underpinning observations made in the lab by Störmer and Tsui a year earlier, explaining that the electrons condense to form a kind of quantum fluid. The phenomenon is known as the fractional quantum Hall effect. He has written A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down (2005) and The Crime of Reason and the Closing of the Scientific Mind (2008).

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