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Dr. Harold Metcalf, "The Coldest Temperature in the Universe"

Date: 11/29/07
Time: 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Audience: Public
Sponsored By: School of Science and Engineering
Cost: free
Location: Coykendall Science Building Lounge and Auditorium
Contact: David M. Clark, x3524,
Web Site:

We use the Kelvin scale to measure temperatures starting at absolute zero, 0 Kelvin or -273 degrees C, the theoretical point at which all atomic motion ceases. The coldest known temperature in nature is in the depths of outer space, warmed by the faint afterglow of the Big Bang to only 2.7 Kelvin. In 1925 Einstein described a method of producing much colder temperatures, a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero. A method to obtain these temperatures, utilizing a technique called 'laser cooling', was successfully achieved until 1995 - a feat which resulted in a 2001 Nobel Prize. By properly tuning laser cooling light, some atoms can form a Bose-Einstein condensate in which they collapse into a minimum energy quantum state. In this talk Dr. Metcalf, director of the Metcalf Research Group at SUNY Stony Brook, will describe the fundamentals of laser cooling.