Future looks cool

Eric Cornell
Eric Cornell
Dunedin can benefit from the science of ultra cold atoms, just as it earlier gained from the export of frozen meat, Nobel Laureate Prof Eric Cornell says.

‘‘I think it could actually work in Dunedin.

‘‘Certainly, there’s so many possibilities,’’ he added on Monday.

Prof Cornell is visiting the University of Otago through the university’s Distinguished Visitor programme, marking the university’s 150th anniversary.

In the mid-1920s, Albert Einstein predicted that Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC), a previously unobserved state of matter, would form at very close to absolute zero (-273.15degC).

It was not until 1995 that the first gaseous condensate was produced by Prof Cornell and Carl Wieman at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

They and another researcher, Wolfgang Ketterle, later received the 2001 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Prof Cornell was on Monday impressed by some ‘‘lovely’’ BEC research work at the Otago physics department, and at the Dodd-Walls Centre.

Dunedin and Otago had benefited from the development of refrigeration technology and the first trip of the sailing ship Dunedin from Port Chalmers, in 1882, had opened up a big market for frozen meat in Britain, he said.

BEC was very different from that kind of refrigeration, but there was an echo of that earlier breakthrough in the cutting-edge science linked to ultra-cold atoms, and associated laser technologies.

He had just met some young, talented student researchers, from several overseas countries, in the Otago physics department, and it was crucial that Dunedin and New Zealand retained such people for the future.


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