Time, Einstein and the coolest stuff in the universe

COPRESENTED WITH THE SCHOOL OF PHYSICS AND THE SCIENCE FOUNDATION FOR PHYSICS, FACULTY OF SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY

William D Phillips
4 August, 2010
 

Dr William D Phillips

At the beginning of the 20th century Einstein changed the way we think about nature. At the beginning of the 21st century Einstein's thinking is shaping one of the key scientific and technological wonders of contemporary life: atomic clocks, the best timekeepers ever made. Such super-accurate clocks are essential to industry, commerce, and science; they are the heart of the Global Positioning System (GPS), which guides cars, airplanes, and hikers to their destinations.

Today, atomic clocks are still being improved, using atoms cooled to incredibly low temperatures. Atomic gases reach temperatures less than a billionth of a degree above Absolute Zero.

Super-cold atoms are at the heart of Primary Clocks, accurate to better than a second in 100 million years. Such atoms also use, and allow tests of, some of Einstein's strangest predictions.

This will be a lively, multimedia presentation, including experimental demonstrations and down-to-earth explanations about some of today's most exciting science.


William D. Phillips is a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg MD, where he leads the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group in the Atomic Physics Division of NIST's Physics Laboratory. The group is part of the Joint Quantum Institute, a cooperative research enterprise of NIST and the University of Maryland.

In 1997 Phillips shared the Nobel Prize in Physics "for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light." See the Nobel Prize official website for more information