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Physics & Astronomy – Dr. William D. Phillips – S. Town Stephenson Distinguished Public Lecture

About the event

The Department of Physics and Astronomy invites all to an S. Town Stephenson Distinguished Public Lecture featuring Dr. William D. Phillips, 1997 Physics Nobel Prize Laureate at the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). Dr. Phillips will present his talk, “Time, Einstein, and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe.


Prof. William D. Phillips is the leader of the Laser Cooling and Trapping group at NIST and a professor of physics at the University of Maryland. Among his many research interests are the laser cooling and trapping of neutral atoms, atomic-gas Bose-Einstein condensates, and quantum information with single-atom qubits.

Prof. Phillips received his B.S. degree from Juniata College, Huntington and his PhD from MIT. Since 1978 he is a physicist at NIST (formerly NBS) Gaithersburg. He has received numerous prestigious awards, most notably the 1997 Nobel Price in Physics for the “development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light”.


“Time, Einstein, and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe”

At the beginning of the 20th century Einstein changed the way we think about Time.  Now, early in the 21st century, the measurement of Time is being revolutionized by the ability to cool a gas of atoms to temperatures millions of times lower than any naturally occurring temperature in the universe.   Atomic clocks, the best timekeepers ever made, are one of the scientific and technological wonders of modern life.  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, the best primary atomic clocks use ultracold atoms, achieve accuracies of about one second in 300 million years, and are getting better all the time, while a new generation of atomic clocks is leading us to re-define what we mean by time.  Super-cold atoms, with temperatures that can be below a billionth of a degree above absolute zero, use, and allow tests of, some of Einstein’s strangest predictions.

This will be a lively, multimedia presentation, including exciting experimental demonstrations and down-to-earth explanations about some of today’s hottest (and coolest) science.

Reception to follow.


Dept of Physics and Astronomy
(509) 355-1698