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University of Colorado professors Carl Wieman left and Eric
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University of Colorado professors Carl Wieman (left) and Eric Cornell

June 1, 2010
University of Colorado professors Carl Wieman (left) and Eric Cornell display the data that illustrates their first observation--made in 1995--of the Bose-Einstein Condensate (or BEC). [Image 1 of two related images. See Image 2.]

More About this Image: The first demonstration of the Bose-Einstein condensation in a gas was made in 1995 by Eric A. Cornell, an adjoint professor at the University of Colorado, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and a National Science Foundation-supported researcher, and his colleague Carl Wieman.

As predicted by Albert Einstein 70 years ago, atoms, when cooled to temperatures approaching absolute zero, condense into a "superatom," behaving as a single or collective entity. Quantum theory also predicts that matter behaves like a wave. This wave-like behavior is evident when matter is cooled enough for its atoms to coalesce into this collective quantum state.

Dr. Cornell was awarded the Alan T. Waterman Award by the National Science Board in May 1997 for his work in this area, the highest honor for young researchers. He was also named a Nobel laureate in Physics in 2001. Cornell's experiments since then have established the area as an exciting new field of physics. Many physicists consider the creation of the Bose-Einstein condensate the most important discovery since high-temperature superconductivity. It's a new macroscopic state with unique and fascinating properties. Its applications have included the transformation of the field of atom interferometry in much the same way the laser revolutionized optical interferometry. Cornell's work has opened up a rich and fascinating physical system with a host of further questions to explore. (Year of image: 1995)


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