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Renowned Physicist Ted Hänsch To Speak On Optical Spectroscopy, Feb. 9 At U.Va.

February 5, 2004 -- World-renowned physicist Ted Hänsch will give the annual Hoxton Lecture in Physics on Monday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. in Room 203 of the Physics Building, on McCormick Road at the University of Virginia.

The title of his talk is “Ultra-Precision Optical Spectroscopy: Counting the Ripples of a Light Wave.” A reception will follow the talk, which is free and open to the public.

Hänsch, who is director of the Max-Planck-Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany and a professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich (University of Munich), is one of the world’s most highly respected optical and atomic physicists and the recipient of nearly every major prize in his field.

Atoms are the basic building blocks of the elements and of all materials. These simple, natural structures can also serve as timekeepers for unimaginably accurate clocks—clocks that would have lost or gained no more than a second since the beginning of the universe. While atomic clocks of this accuracy might not help people keep appointments or feed the dog on time, they are crucial for modern technology, particularly the navigational aids made possible by the global positioning system. But in addition to their practical importance, ultra-precise clocks and laser-based optical spectroscopy are also allowing scientists to examine the structures of atoms and matter, and to see whether that structure has been changing over time.

Of all the atoms and atomic timekeepers, none is more basic than the ordinary hydrogen atom. For more than three decades, Hänsch has studied the hydrogen atom, and his work has led to many advances in laser spectroscopy and optical frequency metrology. His experiments have provided accurate values of fundamental constants and permit stringent tests of basic physics laws.

The author or co-author of more than 400 papers, Hänsch is known for his seminal contributions to the fields of lasers, laser spectroscopy, and laser cooling of atomic gases. Among his many pioneering efforts, Hänsch produced the first “atom laser”—a device that emits a continuous beam of coherent matter waves—and microfabricated “atom chips” that hold and manipulated cold-trapped atoms. In his spectroscopic work on the simple hydrogen atom, experiments are poised to reveal possible slow changes of fundamental constants or even differences between matter and antimatter.

Llewellyn G. Hoxton, for whom the lecture series is named, was a professor of physics at U.Va. and served as department chair from 1907 to 1948. Throughout those years Hoxton considered it to be of great importance to convey to students the excitement of new developments in physics.

The Hoxton Lectures were inaugurated by the Department of Physics in 1971 to share the viewpoints of physicists on topics where their expertise may offer new insights. These lectures are intended to be interesting and provocative.

Contact: Tammie Shifflett, (434) 924-3781

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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