- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

STOCKHOLM A Japanese and two American astrophysicists won the Nobel Prize in physics yesterday for using some of the most obscure particles and waves in nature to increase understanding of the universe.

Riccardo Giacconi, 71, of the Associated Universities Inc. in Washington, will get half of the $1 million prize for his role in "pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources."

Raymond Davis Jr., 87, of the University of Pennsylvania shares the other half of the prize with Japanese scientist Masatoshi Koshiba, 76, of the University of Tokyo. The two men pioneered the construction of giant underground chambers to detect neutrinos, elusive particles that stream from the sun by the billions.

Neutrinos offer a unique view of the sun's inner workings because they are produced in its heart by the same process that causes it to shine. Mr. Davis' early experiments, performed during the 1960s in a South Dakota gold mine, confirmed that the sun is powered by nuclear fusion.

His experiments were described in the citation as "considerably more difficult than finding a particular grain of sand in the whole of the Sahara desert."

Mr. Koshiba won his share of the prize for his work at the Kamiokande neutrino detector in Japan. That experiment confirmed and extended Mr. Davis' work, and also discovered neutrinos coming from distant supernova explosions, some of the brightest objects in the universe.

The Italian-born Mr. Giacconi, a U.S. citizen, was cited for building the first X-ray telescopes that provided "completely new and sharp images of the universe," the academy said. He is currently president of Associated Universities Inc., a nonprofit corporation that operates several astronomical observatories for the academic research community.

His research laid the foundation for X-ray astronomy, which has led to the discovery of black holes and allowed researchers to peer deep into the hearts of the dusty young galaxies where stars are born.

This year's Nobel winners have "opened new windows to space," said Mats Jonsson, chairman of the awards committee.

Mr. Giacconi said he was "dumbstruck" when academy officials telephoned him at 5:30 p.m. at his Chevy Chase home, but added, "I haven't been quiet since."

He said the prize money would pay for his grandchildren's education. "Considering the cost these days, it might be all that it's good for," he joked.

Mr. Koshiba also was phoned at home in Tokyo, but the academy was still trying to reach Mr. Davis, spokesman Erling Norrby said.

Mr. Davis suffers from Alzheimer's disease and was not available to comment yesterday morning. He lives in New York near Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he performed much of his neutrino work as a research chemist.

This year's Nobel awards started Monday with the naming of Britons Sydney Brenner, 75, and John E. Sulston, 60, and American H. Robert Horvitz, 55, as winners of the medicine prize, selected by a committee at the Karolinska Institute.

The researchers shared it for discoveries about how genes regulate organ growth and a process of programmed cell deaths that shed light on how viruses and bacteria invade human cells, including in conditions such as AIDS, strokes, cancer and heart attacks.

The winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry and the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel will be named today. The literature prize winner will be announced tomorrow and the winner of the coveted peace prize on Friday.


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