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In the heartbeat of the subject


Published in

Diario de Navarra

Diego Maza Ozcoidi

Director from department of Physics and Applied Mathematics of the University of Navarra

It is always complex to explain what an "instant" is, especially when for most of us it is nothing more than an emotional concept far removed from a factual and measurable reality. At a time when we are still amazed at how long-lived our universe seems, the Swedish Academy of Sciences reminds us that short times are as fascinating, if not more so, than the apparent eternity of the universe. Using the simile with which the award was presented, the age of the known universe is as many times a single beat of the human heart, as that same beat is with respect to the time scale called "attosecond" and for whose control P. Agostini, F. Krausz and A. L'Huiller were awarded and awarded, P. Agostini, F. Krausz and A. L'Huiller. It is hard to imagine, but it is so.

It is difficult to conceive of anything that comes closer in a more concrete way to the idea of what an instant is. This time scale is so small that it is, in fact, the time scale on which everything interesting that surrounds us is triggered. From that aroma that triggers the memory of the breakfasts our mother used to prepare to the tremor that invades us before an unexpected noise. Any nearby physical process that we can perceive is a product of the electronic interaction with which our nervous system transmits information, and this year's award-winning technique makes it possible to measure with extraordinary precision the very instant when a process of this kind subject begins. It is undoubtedly an impressive advance that opens up an incredible range of possibilities, both fundamental and applied. To be able to "see" a reaction Chemistry while it is taking place, and to think that we could have control over it even at the precise "instant" in which it occurs, does not need any brainy explanations to justify its importance. This is why this year's award Nobel Prize in Physics is relatively simple to summarize by saying that it rewards the ingenuity that has been able to measure the very rate at which the subject beats.