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Quantum physicist gets top science award

Switzerland’s oldest and most prestigious annual science prize has been awarded to the theoretical physicist Daniel Loss for his work on quantum computers.

The Marcel Benoist foundation announced on Wednesday that Loss, a professor at Basel University, had been selected for the SFr50,000 ($52,300) prize for his pioneering work on the physics underlying the concept of quantum computing.

A quantum computer uses quantum mechanical phenomena rather than the transistors of traditional computers. Exactly how such a machine would work is one of the hottest topics in quantum physics research worldwide.

Such a computer, should it be built, would be a super calculator, able to solve problems much more efficiently, including some that are today insoluble, according to the foundation’s press release on the award.

The prize is named after the French lawyer Marcel Benoist who lived in Lausanne. In his will, he left money to the Swiss government to make an annual award to a scientist working in Switzerland. He stipulated that it should go to one who has made “the most useful scientific discovery or study, in particular in disciplines which are of significance for human life."

Benoist died in 1918, and the prize has been awarded every year since 1920.

The Marcel Benoist foundation is chaired by the interior minister, who presides over the award ceremony.


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