Category Archives: Scientific Anniversaries

The fact of the matter

26th March – An historic day for the physics of matter…

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of American physicist Carl Wieman. Wieman, along with fellow American physicist Eric Cornell, were the first to produce a true Bose-Einstein condensate, for which they won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics.

At the time, a Bose-Einsten condensate had never been produced, but the ability of this new state of matter to form had been predicted by Einstein way back in 1924. Einstein based this prediction on the calculations of Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose; Bose is also the namesake of the increasingly-popular class of particles, the bosons: particles which obey Bose-Einstein statistics.

Bose-Eisntein condensate is formed when separate atoms — Wieman and Cornell used rubidium atoms — are cooled to near absolute zero, causing the atoms to coalesce into a single quantum mechanical entity. Exciting stuff!

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This image shows the velocity-distribution data for the gas of rubidium atoms, which confirmed the discovery of the new phase of matter.

For a simple and easy to follow explanation of Bose-Einstein condensate follow this link.

For a more in-depth look at this matter (ahem), use this one.


This post was written by David Chapman, a committee member of the West Midlands Branch of the British Science Association. For more information on the Brach, find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

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