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College of Science & Mathematics

NIST Physicist Ian Spielman to lecture at Rowan

Date: Friday, March 4th @ 12:15pm


Ian Spielman of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will speak at Rowan in the final segment of this year's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series on Friday, March 4, 2011 from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in the Betty Long Rowan Lecture Hall in Rowan Hall.  The College's lecture series is designed to encourage discourse in a variety of disciplines. Accomplished, external speakers come to Rowan to discuss the foremost areas of research and development in their fields. Spielman's talk is free and open to the public.

Spielman received his Ph.D. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 2004.  He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the NIST in the lab of William Phillips, 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics. Spielman is a full time Physicist at NIST.  In May 2010, the Maryland Academy of Sciences named him "Maryland's Outstanding Young Scientist of the Year."  

Spielman helps unravel some of Physics' greatest unsolved mysteries and will discuss this work in his talk, "Ultracold atoms: understanding complex systems through simplicity."  

What is the origin of complexity?  This simple question underlies some of the most fundamental problems in science: how can simple chemical components organize themselves into living cells and organisms?  What governs order on the astronomical scale?  While these examples involve numerous distinct interacting components, similar order appears in systems of identical particles all with the same interactions.  Complexity from simplicity: this is fundamental physics. 

Nowhere is such complexity more common than in solids where innumerable electrons interact through the familiar Coulomb's law of electrostatics, yet scaling up we can get different materials such as semiconductors, metals, superconductors, magnets, and so forth.  How do these work?  Some we understand, and some like high-temperature superconductors, we do not. 

Seemingly simple, electrons moving in a crystal are still moving in a complicated environment; a intricate crystal structure, random imperfections, and a myriad of other details make it difficult to formulate simple laws that predict behavior. 

In contrast, systems of ultra-cold atoms -- tenuous vapors of atoms cooled to just a billionth of a degree above absolute zero -- truly allow us to ask and answer the question "how does order appear from simplicity?"  In a realm where quantum mechanics rules, we create atomic systems that are analogous to more complex material systems, allowing us to better understand the fundamental reason for physical effects.  In my talk I will answer such common party questions as: How do interacting particles first create and then destroy a superconductor?  And, what can cold atoms tell us about the emerging technology of spintronics?

Location: Betty Long Rowan Lecture Hall, Rowan Hall

Contact: Kristen diNovi