Sept. 25, 2003 – Vol. 23 No. 1

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    Compton lectures return Oct. 4

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    Learn how the hypothetical thought experiments from the early days of quantum theory are turning into today’s real-world technologies in a series of free, public lectures beginning Saturday, Oct. 4.

    The series of nine lectures, titled “Quantum Optics: From the Possible to the Actual,” will be held Saturday mornings from 11 a.m. to noon through Dec. 6 in Room 106 of the Kersten Physics Teacher Center, 5720 S. Ellis Ave. There will be no lecture Saturday, Nov. 29.

    Matthew Pelton, a Research Associate in the James Franck Institute, will deliver the lectures. Pelton’s audience will learn how scientists today have a degree of control over light and its interaction with atoms, which was unthinkable to the originators of quantum mechanics, the theory that underlies most of modern physics.

    “This lets us turn abstract theories into practical tools. It allows us, for example, to communicate unbreakable codes, to ‘teleport’ the properties of a particle from one place to another, and to slow down light to the speed of a bicycle,” Pelton said. “Looking to the future, we may be able to build a quantum computer that can do calculations that are impossible on an ordinary computer.”

    Pelton received his bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from the University of Toronto and his doctorate in applied physics from Stanford University. These talks are the 58th series of the Arthur Holly Compton Lectures, sponsored each fall and spring by the Fermi Institute. Compton was a Chicago physicist and a Nobel laureate, best known for demonstrating that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. He also organized the effort to produce plutonium for the atomic bomb and directed the Metallurgical Laboratory at Chicago, where Fermi and his colleagues produced the first controlled nuclear chain reaction in 1942.

    The lectures are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences. Previous topics have ranged from the smallest fundamental particles to the history of the universe. For more information on the next series of Compton Lectures, visit http://jfi.uchicago.edu/~pelton/compton.html.