BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Last October, David Wineland was basking in the limelight after winning the Nobel Prize in physics for his groundbreaking work in quantum physics that could one day lead to more accurate atomic clocks and computers that use atoms to manipulate data.
This October, Wineland’s experiments at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are on hold. He, along with fellow Nobel laureate Eric Cornell, are among the lab employees furloughed during the government shutdown.
“We can’t do any experimenting right now,” Wineland said in an interview Monday. “Part of our work is, you know, thinking about the experiments and analyzing things. We can work from home, and I think, I like to say, well, ‘they can stop us from being in the lab but they can’t stop us from thinking.'”
Wineland and a few other scientists are allowed into the lab each day to check on equipment that must be left running, including the atomic clock.
In the year since winning the Nobel Prize, Wineland has been a sought after speaker at educational and scientific institutions as well as at conferences. He’s also become a bit of a celebrity with hundreds of people from around the world sending him letters asking for his autograph.
None of the notoriety or groundbreaking work mattered once Congress and President Barack Obama deadlocked on the budget and the government shut down Oct. 1.
“There’s no sainthood on either side of this issue,” Wineland said. “It is a big waste. We’re not able to do our work. It sounds like our pay will be reinstituted so that’s sort of a double loss. We haven’t been able to do our job and yet, they’re going to pay us.”
There is one benefit, however:
“I don’t need to shave every day right now,” Wineland said, rubbing the stubble on his face.
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– By P. Solomon Banda, AP Writer
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