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American, 2 others win 2018 physics Nobel for laser breakthroughs

A trio of American, Canadian, and French scientists have won the Nobel Prize in physics for their work with lasers. 

Arthur Ashkin of the U.S., Frenchman Gerard Mourou and Canada's Donna Strickland won the 2018 Nobel Prize for
Physics for their breakthroughs in laser research.

"The inventions being honoured this year have revolutionized laser physics," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said as it awarded the trio the $1 million prize. "Advanced precision instruments are opening up unexplored areas of research and a multitude of industrial and medical applications," it said. 

The Nobel organization's own records show that Strickland is the first woman to win the Nobel for Physics since 1963. Two other women have been awarded the prestigious prize: Marie Curie of the Russian Empire (now Poland) in 1903, and Maria Goeppert Mayer of what was then Germany in 1963.  

The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded Monday to two researchers from the United States and Japan for advances in discovering how the body's immune system can fight off the scourge of cancer.

The next Nobel to be awarded with be for chemistry. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday.

A rape conviction, and no Nobel for literature 

No literature prize is being given this year, but the Swedish Academy that awards the prestigious prize is still in the limelight. Jean-Claude Arnault, a French citizen who is a major cultural figure in Sweden, is at the center of a sex abuse and financial crimes scandal that has tarnished the academy and forced it to take a year off in its deliberations.

The 72-year-old was sentenced on Monday, just minutes before the award ceremony for the medicine prize began, to two years in prison for the rape of a woman seven years ago. He denied the charges.

The prosecutor had urged the court to sentence Arnault to three years in prison, but he will serve less.

"The defendant is found guilty of rape committed during the night between the 5th and 6th of October 2011 and has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years. The injured party has been awarded compensation for damages," the Stockholm district court said in its verdict.

Even before Arnault's conviction was announced, the Swedish Academy itself had no guarantee that it will be allowed to keep awarding the literature prize.

Lars Heikensten, the head of the Nobel Foundation, has warned that if the Swedish Academy does not resolve its tarnished image his agency could decide that another group would be a better host. He even suggested there could be no Nobel Literature Prize awarded in 2019 either -- which is counter to the academy's current plan to award both the 2018 and the 2019 literature Nobels next year.

He told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that it was the Swedish Academy -- not the Nobel Foundation -- that was going through a crisis.

"The ball essentially lies on the Swedish Academy's court," he said.   

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