Possible building blocks of quantum computers
I am actually surprised that we have a higgsless Nobel prize. However, among the non-Higgs potential candidates, the actual winners belonged among the most widely discussed ones. The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Serge Haroche of Paris, France (captured photons, man on the left side) who was born in a protectorate known as Morocco and David Wineland of NIST in Boulder, Colorado (ion storage, man on the right side).
The Gentlemen are rewarded for experiments with individual tiny quantum systems (at most several ions and/or photons) that are hoped to become foundations of quantum computers sometime in the future. It means that their work is all about the experimental proofs of the superposition principle, a basic postulate of quantum mechanics – they may prepare their systems in any complex linear combination of someone's preferred basis vectors. To do so, they are able to implement various unitary operations on the particles' state vectors – unitary operations that could once become true operations of a useful gadget, the quantum computer.
In particular, Wineland became famous for laser cooling of ions in Paul traps and preparation of these ions' entangled states. Serge Haroche is the photon tamer. He was able to catch photons into boxes with mirrors (studied by "cavity QED") where they get reflected a billion of times before they get absorbed or "decay"; this allowed him to measure the growing entanglement of the photons with the atoms or, you could say, decoherence in action.
Well, it's plausible that the quantum computer will ultimately be built out of very different elements, e.g. silicon atoms or impurities in a diamond, but only time will show. Some experts believe that quantum computers are just five years away.
These guys represent the topic often covered on this blog, the foundations of quantum mechanics, and I am confident that I would agree with them. If a Nobel prize went to one of the anti-quantum warriors, it would start to be really bad. It's not bad, they're the good guys. ;-)
You may buy a 2006 book on the foundations of quantum mechanics co-authored by Serge Haroche, one of the fresh Nobel prize winners. There are hundreds of articles on foundations of quantum mechanics on this blog (492 articles contain "quantum mechanics", and even quantum computer brings you above 100 articles) and I don't think that either of them is really more appropriate than others in the context of this Nobel prize.
However, I may still single out my introduction to quantum computation.
Some comments about quantum computers from David Wineland, one of the winners. Check other videos with him.
Some guys I know from Harvard – Mikhail Lukin, Markus Greiner, Eugene Demler, and a few others – have been doing research on topics closely related to the subject of this Nobel prize.
Finally, an appropriate song: My sweetheart is a Nobel prize by the LHC (Les Horribles Cernettes). Buy the songs.