Wednesday, November 24, 1999

William James Forum Features Nobel Laureate Dec. 2

Chestertown, MD — The science behind cooling and trapping atoms with light and its use in new scientific endeavors are among the exciting breakthroughs to be discussed by William D. Phillips, 1997 Nobel Laureate in his lecture "Almost Absolute Zero: The Story of Laser Cooling and Trapping." The William James Forum talk takes place in Litrenta Lecture Hall, Dunning Hall, at 6:30 p.m., on Thurs., Dec. 2 at Washington College.

Phillips was awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for his work in developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. He points out that contrary to intuition, shining a laser on a gas cools its kinetic motion. "Using new tricks, we can now cool a gas of atoms to well below a microkelvin--the coldest kinetic temperatures ever. Atoms this cold exhibit weird and wonderful properties and are being used for applications ranging from super-accurate atomic clocks to new quantum devices like atom lasers," Phillips says. He will describe how laser cooling works, how it allows atoms to be trapped in a magnetic field, and why it works better than anyone had expected it to.

Phillips is a leading researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and a member of the National Academy of Science.

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