Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Bill Phillips gave a dynamic and entertaining presentation for Shady Side Academy Senior School students at an all-school assembly on Friday, April 5. His demonstration on the cooling of atoms involved balloons, silk flowers, racquet balls, packing peanuts, liquid nitrogen, levitating magnets, and a surprise explosion in a trash can, ending with a standing ovation by students and faculty.
William D. Phillips, Ph.D. was a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. He is currently a physicist and fellow of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and the distinguished university professor and College Park professor of physics at the University of Maryland. He received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. Through the 1980s, Dr. Phillips and his collaborators pioneered the technique of laser cooling and trapping atoms, which now underlies the field of cold atom physics. One result of the development of laser-cooling techniques was the first observation, in 1995, of the Bose-Einstein condensate, a new state of matter originally predicted 70 years earlier by Einstein. That result in turn led others in the field to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Dr. Phillips' visit was made possible by University of Pittsburgh physics professor Vincent Liu, father of SSA freshman Steven Liu.
Watch the trash can explosion below or watch the full presentation on YouTube (46:51).