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Frenchman Gerard Mourou of the Ecole Polytechnique and University of MI will share half of the NZ$1.5 million the prize carries with Ms Strickland; Mr Ashkin gets the other half.

It will be the first time the Nobel Prize for literature has not been awarded since World War Two.

U.S. citizen Ashkin, 96, received the award "for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems", which enables radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, "an old dream of science fiction".

Arthur Ashkin, of the United States, was awarded half the nine million kronor (£770,000) prize, with the other half shared by Gerard Mourou of France and Canadian Donna Strickland.

The developments have led to advanced precision instruments that are opening up unexplored areas of research and a multitude of industrial and medical applications, it added.

Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery.

Canada's Donna Strickland, the first female Nobel Prize victor in physics since 1963, said Tuesday that women have "come a long way" since the previous laureate, Maria Goeppert Mayer.

Strickland says she was left in disbelief when the call from Stockholm came early this morning notifying her of the win, saying she thought it was "crazy". "After a week where a woman has been forced to describe her sexual assault to a live television audience of billions, and an academic at a prestigious university has said that women are unfairly promoted into senior positions in physics, even I - the eternal optimist - was starting to lose hope".

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He then announced the USA would terminate the Amity treaty which formed the basis of Iran's suit against the U.S. During four days of hearings in late August, Iran's lawyers accused Washington of "strangling" its economy.

Before Dr Strickland and Dr Mourou's pioneering work, the peak power of laser pulses was limited because, when cranked up to high intensities, they would destroy the material used for amplifying its energy.

"French physicist Gérard Mourou and Canadian physicist Donna Strickland share the other half of the prize for their work on developing very, very short and very intense laser pulses", the Guardian reported.

She said the other important piece of the puzzle is in creating environments where women feel supported and welcome to stay in STEM fields.

"I think it's really nice that Donna Strickland, as a female scientist, got the Prize this year".

When a laser pulse is compressed in time and becomes shorter, more light is packed into a small space.

While laser eye surgery is the most familiar application of their work, it has also let scientists probe fundamental forces acting within matter at very high temperatures and pressures, Moloney said.

Last year's physics prize went to three Americans who used abstruse theory and ingenious equipment design to detect the faint ripples in the universe called gravitational waves. His story was based on reports from VOANews.com, the Associated Press, Reuters and the Nobel Prize website.