From Apples to Atoms: Precision Measurement With Ultra-Cold Matter

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Speaker: Dr Nick Robins (Australian National University)
Date: 12th August 2011

Precision measurements lie at the heart of technology advances in our society.  I will begin with a short historical account of precision measurement through the ages, leading up to the present generation of optical lasers and atomic clocks.  I’ll describe exactly how a modern atomic ‘fountain’ clock works and introduce the idea of laser cooling of atoms.  From there we’ll talk about why precision measurements might benefit from cooling atoms even further, right down to an exotic phase transition called Bose-Einstein condensation.  I’ll discuss matter waves and an a new type of laser composed of them – the atom laser.  Finally, I’ll discuss the state of the art in precision measurement with ultra-cold atoms and look to the future to answer the question “where are we going with all this?”