Bay Area scientist wins Nobel Prize in physics

A Bay Area scientist has won the Nobel Prize in physics.

John Clauser, 79, said he received a call Tuesday about 2:50 a.m. from another physicist who's been following his work, letting him know he and two other physicists won the award.

KTVU spoke with Clauser at his East Bay home this morning. He said he was "very happy" to hear he'd won the award.

Clauser won the prize jointly with two other physicists, for their work on quantum information science.

Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John F. Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger were cited by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for discovering the way that particles known as photons can be linked, or "entangled," with each other even when they are separated by large distances.

The Nobel Committee said their work has significant practical applications, for example in the field of encryption.

"Quantum information science is a vibrant and rapidly developing field," said Eva Olsson, a member of the Nobel Committee. "It has broad and potential implications in areas such as secure information transfer, quantum computing and sensing technology."

The prize is for work Clauser began as a graduate student in 1969, where he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryLawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of California, Berkeley until 1996. He said at the time, his professors thought his experiments were a lost cause.

"Everybody told me I was nuts - that I would ruin my career and that everybody already knew what the results would be. But I was having fun doing some really challenging experimental physics."

When asked what those colleagues have to say about his win, now, he shrugged and smiled and said: "They're now all dead."

Clauser was first nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2011. 

He did not win that year, and said with a chuckle, "I stopped holding my breath waiting for that - just tried to get on with my life."

He said the call this morning was a welcome surprise.

"Much of my life I've spent studying this problem in quantum mechanics. I didn't get rich doing it, but it was an enjoyable life."