Condensation: Quantum Weirdness at the Lowest Temperature in the Universe
Professor Carl E. Wieman
In 1924 Einstein predicted that a gas would undergo a dramatic transformation at a sufficiently low temperature (now known as Bose-Einstein condensation or BEC). In 1995, my group was able to observe this transformation by cooling a gas sample to the unprecedented temperature of less than 100 billionths of a degree above absolute zero. The BEC state is a novel form of matter in which a large number of atoms lose their individual identities and behave as a single quantum entity, the "superatom". This entity is the atom analogue to laser light, and, although large enough to be easily seen and manipulated, exhibits the nonintuitive quantum behavior normally important only at much tinier size scales. The study and use of the curious properties of BEC has now become an important subfield of physics. I will discuss how we create BEC and some of the subsequent research we have done on it. Interactive applets as a tool for teaching science will be demonstrated in the presentation.