Nobel Newspaper Article

Prof. Robert B. Laughlin
Department of Physics
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305

This is one of several newspaper articles related to Prof. Laughlin's 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Oakland Tribune
Wednesday, October 14, 1998

Stanford Prof Wins Nobel Prize for Work on Electron Behavior

by Karen de Sa

For the fourth year in a row, a Stanford University physics professor began his days with a predawn call from Stockholm, Sweden, announcing newes of a Nobel Prize.

This time the honor was bestowed upon Robert Laughlin, a 48-year-old researcher well-known among his colleagues for ground-breaming work on the behavior of electrons.

Laughlin was awakened at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday by his 13-year-old son Todd, who mumbled in a sleepy voice, "Dad, there's someone on the phone from Sweden."

The rest of the day was a dizzying blur of events. Stanford News Service directors arrived at 3:00 a.m. to field the steady stream of media phone calls; news trucks lined up at 4:45 a.m. and other Stanford professors stopped by his campus house. The professors wore their typical morning garb of helmets and tweed coats, but they carried bottles of champagne to toast their latest colleague to receive the world's highest scientific honor.

A total of five American university scientists won Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry Tuesday for exploring the inner structure of matter. Their research has far-reaching implications, from a new generation of microelectronis to understanding the destruction of the Easth's ozone layer. Stanford University professors have been awarded Nobel Prizes in physics the past four years.

"This is matter of extreme limits that you don't encounter every day," Laughlin said Tuesday morning, describing his field of research from the comfort of a leather armchair. "The interesting part is, what are the rules by which the universe does what it does, and people in all walks of life are interested in that."

Laughlin, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shares his honor and the $978,000 in prize money with two other physicists - the German scientist Horst Stormer, of Columbia University and Daniel C. Tsui, of Princeton University. The award recognizes work Tsui and Stormer did together in 1982 on how electrons can change their behavior. Laughlin elaborated on the work the next year.

According to the Nobel citation, the three men discovered a new form of"quantum fluid" - fluids such as liquid helium that have certain properties in common. What makes these fluids important for researchers is that they can reveal more about the inner structure and dynamics of matter.

Recipients of Nobel Prizes immediately begin receiving invitations to lecture around the world, a fact of life already well-understood by Laughlin's 46-year-old wife, Anita, a Palo Alto elementary school teacher."

"He turns down offers as it is," she said, noting that for years his flight schedule has taken him to several parts of the globe each month.

Anita Laughlin also said that although the family is pleased, the Nobel Prize did not necessarily come as a surprise to those who know her husband.

"The last four years Stanford has had winners, his friends were all saying, 'What about Bob?' He's always stood out as being very much a pioneer in his field and trying very creative things."

Indeed, Laughlin is described by colleagues as a worthy recipient. His family members reported they saw signs of genius in him at an early age. In elementary school, Laughlin often would not comply with the relatively unimportant details of learning, such as printing his name in the right-hand corner of the page, said his mother, Peggy Laughlin of San Jose. But he was known to stash entire collections of World Book Encyclopedias under his bed.