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Nobel Laureate Eric Cornell Visits NTHU
On July 8 Eric Cornell, who was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics, gave a talk at NTHU titled “Particle Paleontology: Looking for Fossils of the Early Universe inside Electrons.” He opened his talk by stating in fluent Mandarin, “Wo hen gaoxing gen nimen tanhua,” which elicited thundering applause from the audience. The event was held at NTHU’s International Conference Center and a large number of high school students took the opportunity to see a Nobel laureate in the flesh.
 
The event was organized by Professor Yu of the Department of Physics. In his introduction, Yu stated that in light of NTHU’s longstanding emphasis on atomic physics, Dr. Cornell is very happy to visit NTHU and we hope that this will lead to additional academic exchange in the future.
 
At his first meeting with Cornell, Yu discovered that during his undergraduate years studying physics at Stanford University, Dr. Cornell wasn’t sure he wanted to pursue a career in physics. Thus he took a leave of absence and spent a year in Taiwan and China, where he taught English and studied Chinese. But after finding out how difficult Chinese was, he decided that he had better stick with physics. The rest is history. Yu wondered if one can really conclude from Cornell’s experience that learning Chinese is more difficult than physics, but one can surely agree that Chinese and physics can both be seen as a type of tool: Chinese language is a tool to understand the wisdom of traditional Chinese culture, and physics is a tool for discovering the secrets of nature.
 
In his welcoming address, Professor Pan Ci-Ling said that Dr. Cornell chose for himself the Chinese name Kang Aili (康愛理), which carries the meaning of “Cornell loves physics.” Pan also said that while they were chatting prior to the event, he mentioned the recent dust explosion at a water park in Taiwan. Cornell replied that he has had his own experience with burn-like injuries, and spent six weeks in an intensive care unit. As it turns out, in 2004 Cornell contracted necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as flesh-eating disease, which resulted in his left arm and shoulder being amputated, leaving him with a large amount of scar tissue similar to that caused by burns. Fortunately, he made a speedy recovery and after six months resumed working.
 
In 2001, Cornell, Wolfgang Ketterle, and Carl Edwin Wieman were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics “for the achievement of Bose–Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates.”
 
First formulated in the 1920s, the Bose-Einstein condensation theory predicts that atomic gases condense at extremely low temperatures. According to this theory, groups of atoms gather in the lowest energy state as a single entity, called "Bose condensates." These Bose condensates made it possible to use a simplified theory to study such phenomena as superconductivity, super fluidity, and the quantum phase transition phenomenon of condensation bodies. Bose-Einstein condensation also has major implications for a number of related fields and research topics, including condensed matter physics, quantum information and computation, precision measurement, quantum simulation, and nonlinear physics.
 
Dr. Cornell’s current research focuses on finding the origins of fundamental symmetry breaking, a topic which delves into the formation and the birth of the universe, as well as what it is made of. He believes that the key to these puzzles may well be hiding in the elementary particles well known to us as electrons. Cornell stated that precision spectroscopy can be used to observe the electric charge of an electron and to determine if it carries a charged dipole. He hopes that the results will help answer the mystery of the origin of the universe.
 
Dr. Eric Cornell.

Dr. Eric Cornell.

Student asking Dr. Cornell a question.

Student asking Dr. Cornell a question.

Dr. Cornell and NTHU faculty.

Dr. Cornell and NTHU faculty.

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