Nobel-caliber NIST research could aid computing

Nobel-caliber NIST research could aid computing

Eric A. Cornell

The National Institute of Standards and Technology gained its second Nobel laureate yesterday when senior scientist Eric A. Cornell was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics for research that could aid computer science.

Cornell, who works at NIST's Physics Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., shared the prize with University of Colorado professor Carl E. Wieman and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Wolfgang Ketterle. Cornell also holds an adjoint physics professorship at the Colorado university.

The three were honored for their research into a rare state of matter, called Bose-Einstein condensation, that occurs only when atoms are cooled to a tiny fraction of a degree above absolute zero [see story at www.gcn.com/20_25/news/16941-1.html]. Although physicists S.N. Bose and Albert Einstein predicted the effect in 1924, no one was able to get supercold atoms to condense like that in the laboratory until Cornell and Wieman's first successful experiment in 1995. Scientists have predicted that Bose-Einstein atoms may someday be used in computer circuitry.

NIST fellow William D. Phillips shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for work in developing techniques to cool atoms down to ultracold temperatures [see story at www.gcn.com/archives/gcn/1997/October27/cov4.htm].

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