The Nobel Prize in Physics 2008
Born: 7 April 1944, Nagoya, Japan
Affiliation at the time of the award: High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), Tsukuba, Japan
Prize motivation: "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature."
Prize share: 1/4
Physicists long assumed that nature is characterized by symmetry. In a kind of "mirrored world" where right and left changed places and matter was exchanged for antimatter, natural laws would stand. After it was discovered that the decay of certain particles (kaons) was asymmetrical, a mathematics-based explanation for this was presented by Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa in 1972. The explanation meant that there must be at least three families of "quarks" that form matter. This theory was later verified.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.