Heard on Campus: David Wineland, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics

Barbara K. Kennedy
April 12, 2013

"I feel that the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to recognize so many researchers in this whole field, whose experiments have used trapped, laser-cooled ions to test theories of quantum physics." (Wineland is known for his research on the world's most accurate atomic clocks. These clocks use ions -- electrically charged atoms -- as a super-accurate way of keeping time.)

"There have been many exciting discoveries in this field but, after spending my whole career on atomic clocks, it was disappointing to discover that the measurements of each clock are dependent on the altitude at the clock's location," Wineland said. This effect is a consequence of the physics of general relativity. "If you want to live a slightly longer life, you should ride a bicycle as fast as you can in Death Valley. If you move really fast at an altitude that low, time will go a little slower for you."

"The Nobel ceremony was an amazing, surreal experience for a laboratory scientist like me. It was very fancy and very impressive. For example, one of the events was a very formal dinner to which his Majesty Carl XVI Gustav, king of Sweden, invited members of his royal family, all the Nobel Laureates and others for a total of 1,200 invited guests."

-- David Wineland, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics, gave the 2013 Eberly Family Distinguished Lecture in Science on April 11 in the HUB-Robeson Auditorium on Penn State's University Park campus. Wineland, a physicist at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, shared the prize with French physicist Serge Haroche for "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems." More information is online.

  • David Wineland

    David Wineland

    IMAGE: Courtesy of David Wineland
Last Updated January 09, 2015