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Nothing goes faster than light... usually! 2019 Dirac Lecture with Lene Hau

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John Niland Scientia Building UNSW Sydney, Tyree Room

Library Road

Kensington, NSW 2033

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Join Professor Lene Vestergaard Hau (Harvard University) for the 2019 Dirac Lecture. The lecture will be hosted by Professor Sven Rogge (Head of School, UNSW School of Physics) and chaired by Professor Emma Johnston (Dean, UNSW Science).

This year's lecture will explore how Lene and her team have slowed, stopped and restarted light. The observations represent the ultimate control over the inter-conversion of light and matter, and point to novel paradigms for quantum information processing.

"In our laboratory, we have used ultra-cold atom clouds to slow light pulses to the speed of a bicycle, which is 50 million times lower than the light speed in a vacuum. In the process, a light pulse spatially compresses by the same large factor, from 1 km to only 0.02 mm, and the pulse can then be completely stopped and later restarted.

From here, we have taken matters further: stopped and extinguished a light pulse in one part of space and revived it in a completely different location. In the process, the light pulse is converted to a perfect matter copy that can be stored – put on the shelf – sculpted, and then turned back to light. The storage time can be many seconds, and during this time light could – under normal circumstances – travel back and forth to the Moon several times over."





About the Dirac Lecture and Medal

The Dirac Lecture and Medal for the Advancement of Physics is awarded by UNSW Sydney jointly with the Australian Institute of Physics. The Lecture and Medal commemorate a visit to UNSW in 1975 by Prof. Paul Dirac, who gave a series of five lectures. The lectures were subsequently published as a book Directions of Physics (Wiley, 1978 – H. Hora and J. Shepanski, eds.), the royalties from which were used to establish the Medal, which was first awarded in 1979. Past winners include: David Pines, Klaus von Klitzing and Brian Schmidt (full list here).





About Professor Lene Vestergaard Hau

Lene Vestergaard Hau is the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in 1999, she was a senior scientist at the Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and holds a Ph.D. in Physics from University of Aarhus, Denmark. Hau led a team who succeeded in slowing a pulse of light to 24 kilometres per hour and also brought light to a stop. They took matters even further as they stopped and extinguished a light pulse in one part of space, and subsequently revived it in a different location. In the process, the light pulse is converted to a perfect matter copy that can be stored put on the shelf sculpted, and then turned back to light. These results represent a new paradigm for quantum information processing.

Hau has contributed to a wide variety of research fields. Her Ph.D. work was in theoretical condensed matter physics and she later shifted her attention to experimental and theoretical optical and atomic physics. Her research has included studies of ultra-cold atoms and superfluid Bose-Einstein condensates, as well as channelling of high-energy electrons, protons, and positrons in single crystals with experiments at CERN and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

She is a 2001 MacArthur Fellow and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. She is a member of the European Research Council and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Physical Society. Hau is also the recipient of numerous awards, including Harvard University’s Ledlie Prize, the Ole Roemer Medal, awarded by the University of Copenhagen, and the Richtmyer Memorial Lecture Award awarded by the American Association of Physics Teachers. In 2010, she was named “World Dane”, and in 2012 “Thomson Reuters (Clarivate) Citation Laureate in Physics”. In 2018 she was honoured with the Lise Meitner Distinguished Lecture and Medal, sponsored by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences through its Nobel Committee for Physics, and in March of this year with the International Research Prize from the Olav Thon Foundation, in Oslo.

Professor Hau’s research is described on RadioLab’s “Master of the Universe.”

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John Niland Scientia Building UNSW Sydney, Tyree Room

Library Road

Kensington, NSW 2033

Australia

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