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Quantum Optomechanics or The Science of Firmly Holding Stuff in Place with Light

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Part of the TCSS Symposium

I will explain how physicists manage to cool things by shining light at them. This has led to the creation of several fields of research, of which “Quantum Optomechanics” is one. It is concerned with quantum effects when light interacts with matter. Probably the most famous quantum effect is “Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle” (you can’t measure position and momentum with arbitrary accuracy), which will already be familiar to many. One of its consequences is that even at zero temperature objects still wiggle around Last summer saw an experimental breakthrough, in which several groups managed to suppress the position variation of a beam below its zero-temperature value (at the expense of creating wiggles in the momentum “coordinate”). The method has a startling simplicity (two laser beams and two mirrors). I will explain how this works and what the promises of this new technology are. Expect to learn about some idiosyncrasies of quantum mechanics and to be fascinated by how simple a system can act in entirely unexpected ways (I suppose the sun has never cooled your skin down), which is the foundation for work that has led to several Nobel prizes already.

This talk is part of the Trinity College Science Society (TCSS) series.

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