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3 physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — Three scientists jointly won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their work on quantum information science that has significant applications, for example in the field of encryption.

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 unseen particles, such as photons or tiny bits of matter, can be linked, or “entangled,” with each other even when they are separated by large distances.

“Being a little bit entangled is sort of like being a little bit pregnant. The effect grows on you,” Clauser said in a Tuesday morning phone interview with The Associated Press.

It all goes back to a feature of the universe that even baffled Albert Einstein and connects matter and light in a tangled, chaotic way.

Clauser, 79, was awarded his prize for a 1972 experiment that helped settle a famous debate about quantum mechanics between Einstein and famed physicist Niels Bohr. Einstein described “a spooky action at a distance” that he thought would eventually be disproved.

“I was betting on Einstein,” Clauser said. “But unfortunately I was wrong and Einstein was wrong and Bohr was right.”

Clauser said his work on quantum mechanics shows that you can’t confine information to a closed volume, “like a little box that sits on your desk” — though even he can’t say why.

“Most people would assume that nature is made out of stuff distributed throughout space and time,” Clauser said. “And that appears not to be the case.”

Quantum entanglement “has to do with taking these two photons and then measuring one over here and knowing immediately something about the other one over here,” said David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics. “And if we have this property of entanglement between the two photons, we can establish a common information between two different observers of these quantum objects. And this allows us to do things like secret communication, in ways which weren’t possible to do before.”

That’s why quantum information is not an esoteric thought experiment, said Eva Olsson, a member of the Nobel committee. She called it a “vibrant and developing field.”

“It has broad and potential implications in areas such as secure information transfer, quantum computing and sensing technology,” Olsson said. “Its predictions have opened doors to another world, and it has also shaken the very foundations of how we interpret measurements.”

Everything in the universe could be entangled but “usually the entanglement just kind of washes off. It’s so chaotic and random that when you look at it … we don’t see anything,” said Harvard professor Subir Sachdev, who has worked on experiments that look at quantum entangled material consisting of up to 200 atoms. But sometimes scientists can unsnarl just enough to make sense and be useful in everything from encryption to superconductors, he said.

Speaking by phone to a news conference after the announcement, Zeilinger said he was “still kind of shocked” at hearing he had received the award.

“But it’s a very positive shock,” said Zeilinger, 77, who is based at the University of Vienna.

Clauser, Aspect, and Zeilinger have figured in Nobel speculation for more than a decade. In 2010 they won the Wolf Prize in Israel, seen as a possible precursor to the Nobel.

While physicists often tackle problems that appear at first glance to be far removed from everyday concerns — tiny particles and the vast mysteries of space and time — their research provides the foundations for many practical applications of science.

The Nobel committee said Clauser developed quantum theories first put forward in the 1960s into a practical experiment. Aspect, 75, was able to close a loophole in those theories, while Zeilinger demonstrated a phenomenon called quantum teleportation that effectively allows information to be transmitted over distances.

“Using entanglement you can transfer all the information which is carried by an object over to some other place where the object is, so to speak, reconstituted,” said Zeilinger. He added that this only works for tiny particles.

“It is not like in the Star Trek films (where one is) transporting something, certainly not the person, over some distance,” he said.

When he began his research, Zeilinger said the experiments were “completely philosophical without any possible use or application.”

Since then, the laureates’ work has been used to develop the fields of quantum computers, quantum networks and secure quantum encrypted communication.

A week of Nobel Prize announcements kicked off Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the award in medicine Monday for unlocking secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided key insights into our immune system.

They continue with chemistry on Wednesday and literature on Thursday. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the economics award on Oct. 10.

The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (nearly $900,000) and will be handed out on Dec. 10. The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.

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Jordans reported from Berlin. Seth Borenstein contributed from Kensington, Maryland, and Maddie Burakoff contributed from New York.

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Follow all AP stories about the Nobel Prizes at https://apnews.com/hub/nobel-prizes

David Keyton And Frank Jordans, The Associated Press

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armed conflict

Russian FM: US, NATO directly involved in Ukraine conflict

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister accused the West on Thursday of becoming directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine by supplying the country with weapons and training its soldiers.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said that Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities and other key infrastructure were intended to weaken Ukraine’s military potential and derail the shipments of Western weapons.

“You shouldn’t say that the U.S. and NATO aren’t taking part in this war. You are directly participating in it,” Lavrov said in a video call with reporters. “And not just by providing weapons but also by training personnel. You are training their military on your territory, on the territories of Britain, Germany, Italy and other countries.”

He said the barrages of missiles, drones and artillery fire that have left millions of Ukrainians without power, heating and water was intended to “knock out energy facilities that allow you to keep pumping deadly weapons into Ukraine in order to kill the Russians.”

“The infrastructure that is targeted by those attacks is used to ensure the combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces and the nationalist battalions,” Lavrov said.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of targeting key civilian infrastructure in order to reduce morale, cause Ukraine’s people to suffer during the winter and to force the government in Kyiv into peace talks on Moscow’s terms.

The southern city of Kherson, which Russia’s forces seized in the opening days of the conflict and withdrew from last month, is among the places targeted. Russian shelling on Thursday cut off power in the recently liberated city just days after it was restored.

Weeks before the pullback allowed Ukrainian forces to reclaim Kherson, Russia declared the entire Kherson region part of its territory along with three other regions following hastily called “referendums” that Ukraine and the West rejected as shams.

Asked how the strikes on infrastructure in Kherson and other areas comply with Moscow’s stated goal of protecting Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population, Lavrov responded by drawing parallels with the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II.

“The city of Stalingrad also was part of our territory, and we beat the Germans to make them flee,” he said.

Lavrov insisted that Moscow remains open for talks on ending the conflict. “We never asked for talks but always said that we are ready to listen to those who are interested in a negotiated settlement,” he said.

The Kremlin has urged Ukraine to acknowledge Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as part of Russia and to recognize other land gains that Russia has made since sending its troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24. It also has pushed for guarantees that Ukraine wouldn’t join NATO, along with vaguely formulated “demilitarization” and “denazification” goals.

Asked if a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden was possible, Lavrov replied that “we don’t shun contacts” but added that “we haven’t yet heard any serious ideas yet.”

Lavrov said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has raised the issue of U.S. citizens imprisoned in Russia in a phone call, but he noted that Putin and Biden agreed to set up a separate channel of communication between special services to discuss the issue when they met in Geneva in June 2021.

“It’s working, and I hope that some results will be achieved,” he said.

The Biden administration has tried for months to negotiate the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American jailed in Russia, Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, including through a possible prisoner swap with Moscow.

Commenting on Russia’s decision to postpone a round of nuclear arms control talks with the United States that was scheduled for this week, Lavrov maintained “it’s impossible to discuss strategic stability nowadays while ignoring everything that is happening in Ukraine.”

“The goal has been announced to defeat Russia on the battlefield or even destroy Russia,” he said. “How can the goal of defeating Russia not bear significance for strategic stability, considering that they want to destroy a key strategic stability actor?”

During the online news conference that lasted for 2 1/2 hours, Lavrov railed against the U.S. and its NATO allies, accusing them of trampling on international law while trying to isolate and destroy Russia.

He claimed the U.S. has tried to discourage other countries, including India, from maintaining close ties with Russia but said those attempts have failed.

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Crime

US Virgin Islands reach $105M settlement with Epstein estate

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By Dánica Coto in San Juan

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The U.S. Virgin Islands announced Wednesday that it reached a settlement of more than $105 million in a sex trafficking case against the estate of financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The settlement ends a nearly three-year legal saga for officials in the U.S. territory, which sought to hold Epstein accountable after he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls and of causing environmental damage on the two tiny islands he owned in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The islands will be sold as part of the agreement.

“This settlement restores the faith of the people of the Virgin Islands that its laws will be enforced, without fear or favor, against those who break them,” Attorney General Denise George said.

Epstein’s estate agreed to pay the territorial government $105 million in cash and half of the proceeds from the sale of Little St. James island where Epstein owned a home and authorities allege many of his crimes took place.

The estate also will pay $450,000 to repair environmental damage on Great St. James, another island Epstein owned where authorities say he removed the ruins of colonial-era historical structures of slaves.

The money from the sale of Little St. James island will be placed in a government trust to finance projects, organizations, counseling and other activities to help residents who have been sexually abused, officials said.

“We owe it to those who were so profoundly hurt to make changes that will help avoid the next set of victims,” said George, who added that she met with three alleged victims who were trafficked and sexually exploited on Little St. James island.

A real estate company is listing the island for $55 million, noting that its features include three beaches, a helipad, a gas station and more than 70 acres (28 hectares) of land that offer “an array of subdivision possibilities” and “a comprehensive, discreetly located, infrastructure support system.”

The company also is offering Great St. James for $55 million, an island of more than 160 acres (65 hectares) with three beaches.

In addition, the estate will return more than $80 million in economic tax benefits that U.S. Virgin Islands officials say Epstein and his co-defendants “fraudulently obtained to fuel his criminal enterprise.”

The government previously accused an Epstein-owned business known as Southern Trust Co. of making fraudulent misrepresentations to qualify for the benefits.

Daniel Weiner, an Epstein estate attorney, sent a statement to The Associated Press saying that the settlement does not include any admission or concession of liability or fault by the estate or anyone else.

“The co-executors deny any allegations of wrongdoing on their part,” he wrote. “The co-executors ultimately concluded that the settlement is in the best interest of the estate.”

Weiner also noted that the estate has paid more than $121 million to 136 individuals via a victims’ compensation fund.

Epstein killed himself at a federal jail in New York in August 2019 while awaiting trial. He had pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing dozens of girls, some as young as 14 years old.

Several had sued Epstein and accused him and his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, of pressuring them into sexual trysts with powerful men.

Maxwell, who was convicted on sex trafficking and other charges, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in June.

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