NHK is reporting that 3 Japanese scientists share the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. More later...
Yoichiro Nambu at Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, US, shares the prize with Makoto Kobayashi at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization
Tsukuba, Japan, and Toshihide Masukawa at the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics (YITP), Kyoto University, Japan. Together, they made important discoveries about "symmetry breaking" and quarks, leading to a deeper understanding of our universe.
How does the oxygen and hydrogen of water form such a wide variety of (beautiful) patterns when forming the simple snowflake? To understand this, we need very complex mathematical models, derived from the years of study of elementary particles and quantum physics.
James Trefil explains the Snowflake like this:
Both the hydrogen and oxygen molecules are quite symmetric when they are isolated. The electric force which governs their actions as atoms is also a symmetrically acting force. But when their temperature is lowered and they form a water molecule, the symmetry of the individual atoms is broken as they form a molecule with 105 degrees between the hydrogen-oxygen bonds. When they freeze to form a snowflake, they form another type of symmetry, but the symmetry of the original atoms has been lost. Since this loss of symmetry occurs without any external intervention, we say that it has undergone spontaneous symmetry breaking.
I'm always inspired by these great minds who continue exploring the origins of our universe. Want to read more about symmetry breaking and quantum physics? Over at Treehugger I made this a (short) list of books:
Richard P. Feynman: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
James Trefil: The Moment of Creation: Big Bang Physics from Before the First Millisecond to the Present Universe
Fritjof Capra: Tao of Physics
Gary Zukav: The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics
Got any more suggestions...?