The University of Chicago News Office
Sept. 18, 2003 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
(773) 702-8366

Lecture series to highlight science, technology of quantum physics using light

Learn how the hypothetical thought experiments from the early days of quantum theory are turning into today’s real-world technologies in a series of free, public lectures at the University of Chicago beginning Saturday, Oct. 4.

The series of nine lectures, titled “Quantum Optics: From the Possible to the Actual,” will be held Saturday mornings from 11 a.m. to noon through Dec. 6 in room 106 of the Kersten Physics Teacher Center, 5720 S. Ellis Ave. There will be no lecture Saturday, Nov. 29.

Matthew Pelton, a Research Associate in the University’s James Franck Institute, will deliver the lectures.

Pelton’s audience will learn how scientists today have a degree of control over light and its interaction with atoms that was unthinkable to the originators of quantum mechanics, the theory that underlies most of modern physics.

“This lets us turn abstract theories into practical tools. It allows us, for example, to communicate unbreakable codes, to ‘teleport the properties of a particle from one place to another, and to slow down light to the speed of a bicycle,” Pelton said. “Looking to the future, we may be able to build a quantum computer that can do calculations that are impossible on an ordinary computer.”

Pelton received his bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from the University of Toronto and his doctorate in applied physics from Stanford University.

The talks are the 58th series of the Arthur Holly Compton Lectures, sponsored each fall and spring by the Enrico Fermi Institute. Compton was a University of Chicago physicist and a Nobel laureate, best known for demonstrating that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. He also organized the effort to produce plutonium for the atomic bomb and directed the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, where Fermi and his colleagues produced the first controlled nuclear chain reaction in 1942.

The lectures are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences. Previous topics have ranged from the smallest fundamental particles to the history of the universe.

For more information on the next series of Compton Lectures, see

Last modified at 03:20 PM CST on Thursday, September 18, 2003.

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