Chicago hackerspace Pumping Station One is hosting NIST researcher and University of Maryland professor Dr. Ian Spielman, who will give a talk on quantum mechanics. Doors open at 7pm and the talk begins at 8. Free.

Over the past twenty or thirty years a series of technical innovations have allowed experimental physicists to cool clouds of atoms to staggeringly low temperatures. In my lab, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD, we first trap and laser cool about a billion rubidium atoms to a balmy 20 microKelvin. These atoms are further evaporatively cooled, by slowly removing the most energetic atoms, until the remaining atoms reach “quantum degeneracy” and collect into a single quantum mechanical state — a phase of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate or BEC — at temperatures as low as 1 nanoKelvin.

These atoms are charge neutral, i.e. they are not ions, so they don’t accelerate in electric fields, or feel the Lorentz force in magnetic fields. Using a combination of lasers and magnetic fields we cause atoms in our BEC to behave like they were charged particles moving in (non-existent) electric and magnetic fields.