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November 16, 2009
By Mike Wolterbeek
In 1924, Albert Einstein had a theory on a chalkboard. In 1995, Eric Cornell made it come to life.
Cornell and his research partners, by lowering the temperature of atoms to nearly absolute zero, demonstrated a state of matter never before seen. This state of matter was first predicted by Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein in 1924–25. In 2001, Cornell and his colleagues’ research on this super-cold matter earned them a Nobel Prize in physics.
In a free public presentation Thursday, Nov. 19 at Lawlor Events Center, Cornell will discuss how one reaches the necessary record-low temperatures and explain why one goes to all the trouble to make this bizarre state of matter – a state where particles overlap in a wavy condensation. The public is invited to attend.
"One way to learn nature's secrets is to be as quiet as possible and let her whisper them to you of her own accord,” Cornell said. “In physics, being quiet means being cold. At the lowest possible achievable temperatures, we can learn things that we could never hope to understand if we always had to deal with the continuous noisy racket that is room temperature."
“Dr. Cornell is an extraordinary scientist and speaker; we’re fortunate to have him on campus,” Jeff Thompson, dean of the College of Science said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty and the public.”
Hosted by the University’s College of Science, Cornell’s talk, “Stone Cold Science: Bose-Einstein Condensation and the Weird World of Physics a Millionth of a Degree Above Absolute Zero,” will be from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Silver and Blue Room at Lawlor Events Center. A reception will follow from 7 to 8 p.m. Free parking is available at the West Stadium Parking Garage on the north side of Lawlor Events Center.
Cornell received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Stanford University in 1985 and his doctorate in physics from MIT in 1990, and went to JILA in Boulder, Colorado in 1990. JILA, located on the main University of Colorado, Boulder campus, is a center for teaching and research in the areas of atomic, chemical, optical, laser, gravitational, and solar physics; semiconductors; precision measurement; astrophysics; and astronomy. Since 1992 Cornell has been a senior scientist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He is a fellow of JILA and professor adjoint in the physics department of the University of Colorado.