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WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Under Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach today congratulated Yoichiro Nambu of the United States and Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa of Japan for co-winning the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics for their theoretical insights that provide a deeper understanding of what happens far inside the tiniest building blocks of nature.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is awarding Dr. Nambu half of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics."  Dr. Kobayashi and Dr. Maskawa each are receiving a quarter of the 2008 prize "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three quarks in nature."

Dr. Nambu, a U.S. citizen, is the Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Physics at the University of Chicago and its Enrico Fermi Institute.  Dr. Kobayashi, a citizen of Japan, is Professor Emeritus at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan, and Dr. Maskawa, also a Japanese citizen, is Professor Emeritus at the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan.

"As early as 1960, Yoichiro Nambu formulated his mathematical description of spontaneous broken symmetry in elementary particle physics," the Royal Academy's news release announced.  "Spontaneous broken symmetry conceals nature's order under an apparently jumbled surface.  It has proved to be extremely useful, and Nambu's theories permeate the Standard Model of elementary particle physics.  The Model unifies the smallest building blocks of all matter and three of nature's four forces in one single theory."

Over a period of three decades starting in the 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission, a DOE predecessor agency, and the U.S. Department of Energy supported Dr. Nambu, including the key research cited by the Nobel committee in their award to him.

"This is a well-deserved honor for Drs. Nambu, Kobayashi and Maskawa," said Dr. Orbach. "Their insights into the fundamental interactions of matter and energy have greatly expanded our understanding of how the universe works. We are particularly proud of the important role that the AEC played in supporting Dr. Nambu's distinguished research, once again demonstrating how federal investments into basic science can pay large dividends over many years by advancing human knowledge in ways that reshape our view of the world."

The Department of Energy has sponsored 47 Nobel Laureates since DOE's inception in 1977 - and a total of 87 Nobel Laureates associated with DOE and its predecessor agencies since 1934.

Read the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences news release announcing the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Learn more about the Nobel laureates supported by the Department of Energy.

Media contact(s):

Jeff Sherwood, (202) 586-5806