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2012 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics Named 18th Annual Kaczmarczik Lecturer

March 31, 2013 —

18th Annual Kaczmarczik Lecture: “Superposition, Entanglement, and Raising Schrödinger’s Cat”


Dr. David J. Wineland
Winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics


Monday, April 15, 2013, 3:00PM
Main Building Auditorium
3141 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Register Online

David Wineland

David Wineland

In 1935, Erwin Schrödinger, one of the inventors of quantum mechanics, knew that, when extended to the realm of our everyday experience, the theory permits rather bizarre situations. To illustrate his point, he introduced his well-known cat that can simultaneously be both dead and alive. That is, its quantum state is said to be a superposition of both possibilities. Now, 70 years later, we can create situations that have the same attributes of this unfortunate cat, although so far only on the microscopic scale of a few atoms. For example, consider a marble placed in a bowl, rolling back and forth. Now try to imagine what is classically impossible: a single marble that can be both on the left and right side of the bowl simultaneously! Wineland has created a miniature-version of just such a marble. By applying laser forces to a confined atom, he and his team have managed to measure and control fragile quantum states once thought inaccessible for direct observation.

These methods may have a significant impact on computation. Two energy levels in an atom, labeled "0" and "1," can be used to store information just like the bits in our laptops. As in the analogy with the atomic marble, we can arrange the quantum bit, or "qubit," to be both "0" and "1" at the same time, thereby storing both states of the bit simultaneously. This property potentially leads to a memory and processing capacity that increases exponentially with the number of qubits. A normal computer memory of 300 bits could store about a line of text; a computer with a 300-qubit memory could store more information than a normal computer constructed of all the matter in the universe! This characteristic and a related property called entanglement would enable a quantum computer to efficiently solve certain problems that are intractable on normal computers. So far, scientists have constructed quantum computers composed of only a few bits, but with advances in technology, Wineland and his fellow researchers believe a useful device may someday become a reality.

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Dr. David Wineland received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1965, and a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University in 1970. After a postdoctoral position at the University of Washington, he joined the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) in Boulder, Colorado. He is a NIST Fellow and leader of an experimental group that explores the applications of laser-cooled trapped atomic ions, including the development of high-performance atomic clocks, research on quantum information processing, and tests of fundamental physical laws. Wineland's awards include the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics, the Department of Commerce Gold Medal, the Society of Optical and Quantum Electronics' Einstein Medal for Laser Science, the APS' Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science, the International Award on Quantum Communications, the Optical Society of America's Frederic Ives Award, and the National Medal of Science.

About the Kaczmarczik Lecture

Paul Kaczmarczik began his career as a Professor of Physics at Drexel University in 1953. A key player in building the Department of Physics, he made important contributions to teaching at Drexel University during his many years of service. Well-liked by both his colleagues and his students, Professor Kaczmarczik became Professor Emeritus in 1989. The Kaczmarczik Lecture Series was established in 1995 in honor of Professor Kaczmarczik. It brings to Drexel outstanding scientists to present lectures on topics at the cutting edge of Physics research.

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