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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Eric A. Cornell, one of the three winners of the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics, will speak on his breakthrough work on the creation of Bose-Einstein condensate–a new form of matter–on Saturday, February 2, at 3 p.m. in Reed's Vollum lecture hall. The lecture, "Stone-Cold Science: Bose-Einstein Condensation and the Weird World of Physics a Millionth of a Degree from Absolute Zero," which is sponsored by Reed's physics department, is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Reed events hotline at 503/777-7755.

Cornell won the Nobel Prize "for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates," along with Wolfgang Ketterle and Carl E. Wieman. Cornell and Wieman are both faculty members at the University of Colorado at Boulder; Cornell is also senior scientist at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and a fellow of JILA (a joint program of NIST and the University of Colorado at Boulder).

Cornell and Wieman led a team of physicists that created the first Bose-Einstein condensate in 1995. Predicted in 1924 by Albert Einstein, who built on the work of Satyendra Nath Bose, the condensate occurs when the wavelengths of individual atoms begin to overlap and behave in identical fashion, forming a "superatom." The "superatom" occurs when laboratory apparatus is used to chill a group of atoms to just a few hundred billionths of a degree above absolute zero. Its creation established a new branch of atomic physics that has spurred many new scientific discoveries as other scientists began replicating their work. Before photographing the superatom, Cornell and Wieman cooled rubidium atoms to 20 billionths of a degree above absolute zero, the lowest temperature ever achieved.

"It really is a new state of matter," Wieman said of the Bose-Einstein condensate. "It has completely different properties from any other kind of matter."

"This state could never have existed naturally anywhere in the universe," said Cornell after the original discovery. "So the sample in our lab is the only chunk of this stuff in the universe, unless it is in a lab in some other solar system."

Cornell earned his B.S. in physics with honors from Stanford University in 1985 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1990. His most recent honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences (2000), the R.W. Wood prize in 1999 from the Optical Society of America, and the 1999 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics.

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