Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the United States won the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday for work in quantum physics that could one day open the way to supercomputers.
Haroche is from a Jewish family and was born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1944. He has lectured at Israel’s Technion University.
Wineland’s name indicates he may be Jewish, but his religion has not yet been confirmed. He is a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.
The two men were honored for pioneering experimental experiments in "measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems," the jury said in its citation, AFP reported.
"Their groundbreaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of super-fast computer based on quantum physics," it said.
The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time, with more than hundred-fold greater precision than present-day caesium clocks, the jury added.
The pair of scientists specializes in quantum entanglement, a phenomenon of particle physics that has been proven by experiments but remains poorly understood.
When two particles interact, they become "entangled," which means one particle affects the other at a distance. The connection lasts long after they are separated.
In entanglement, particles also go into a state called superposition, which opens the way to a hoped-for supercomputers.
Today's computers use a binary code, in which data is stored in a bit that could be either zero or 1. But in superposition, a quantum bit, known as a qubit, could be either zero or one, or both zero and one at the same time.
This potentially offers a massive increase in data storage, greatly helping number-crunching tasks such as running climate-change models and breaking encrypted codes.