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Nobel Prize in Physics 2018

This collection of research papers, reviews, commentaries and associated content from Nature Research celebrates the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for “ground-breaking inventions in the field of laser physics”. Half of the prize has been awarded to Arthur Ashkin for the invention of optical tweezers and their application in biology. The other half has been awarded to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland for the invention of the chirped pulse amplification method for generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses which underpins applications such as laser eye surgery, laser fusion and laser particle acceleration. This collection illustrates the breadth, diversity and impact that these optical techniques have had in science.

A dual-trap force-clamp configuration is used to apply a constant load between a binding protein and a single intermittently interacting biological polymer. This allows high-resolution measurements of short-lived molecular complexes and reveals previously undetected complex regulation of the myosin working stroke.

Article | | Nature Methods

Through shaping of colloidal particles, optical traps with prescribed force–displacement profiles are generated and are used to design a microscopic constant-force spring capable of delivering a constant piconewton-scale restoring force for displacements of several micrometres. Potential future applications include the imaging of sensitive biological membranes.

Article | | Nature Photonics

Quantum state preparation of mesoscopic objects is a powerful tool for the study of physics at the limits. Here, Arita et al. realise the optical trapping of a microgyroscope rotating at MHz rates in vacuum where the coupling between the rotational and translational motion cools the particle to 40 K.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Nanomechanical sensors that rely on intrinsic resonance frequencies usually present a tradeoff between sensitivity and bandwidth. In this work, the authors realise an optically driven nanorotor featuring high frequency stability and tunability over a large frequency range.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

The neural circuits of the vestibular system, which detects gravity and motion, remain incompletely characterised. Here the authors use an optical trap to manipulate otoliths (ear stones) in zebrafish larvae, and elicit corrective tail movements and eye rolling, thus establishing a method for mapping vestibular processing.

Article | open | | Nature Communications