Report: 18th Hermann Staudinger Lecture with David Wineland, December 9th, 2014
It was our great honour and our great pleasure to win David Wineland (NIST, Boulder, Colorado, Nobel laureate of the year 2012 in physics) as a guest at FRIAS and as speaker of the 18th Staudinger lecture.
This event gave us the unique opportunity to benefit far beyond a conventional lecture, by conducting intense discussions and exchanges on different levels during two complete days.
The Physics Institute enjoyed an additional talk at the institute’s colloquium on the topic of the standard of time and the currently reached uncertainties on a level of 10-18. To appreciate this achievement we should remind ourselves that this level allows one to measure the difference in height of 10 centimetres of two otherwise identical clocks due to the different impact of gravity. This permits the investigation of whether natural constants - that are by definition assumed to be constant - do change in time.
During these two days David Wineland visited FRIAS as well as theory and experimental groups and their laboratories at the physics department. The fruitful discussions proved once more that he is most actively leading a research institute that defines the state of the art in several fields of research, such as quantum metrology and quantum information processing. Additional beneficial input arose in the context of the actual research focus at FRIAS on “Designed quantum transport in complex materials”. In this context he stated that he would see one of the first real applications in quantum information processing devoted to experimental quantum simulations, one of the central topics of the focus. Further events were dedicated exclusively to the students of Freiburg university (see below) offering them the chance to meet a world-renowned and most active scientist and to discuss research on a very personal level in the absence of principal investigators.
David Wineland’s Staudinger lecture was devoted to the broad spectrum of scientific inventions to which he contributed to propel the control on the level of individual quanta. One of the striking examples is laser cooling. He had invented the idea together with Hans Dehmelt (independently of Theodor Haensch, Nobel laureate 2005, and Arthur Schawlow, Nobel laureate in 1961). David Wineland demonstrated the protocol experimentally – by coincidence simultaneously with the group of Peter Toschek.
Subsequently he also demonstrated the first clock that employed laser cooling and demonstrated the first clock outperforming the Cesium-atomic clock, by that signalling the advent of the optical clock as new standard of time. In the second half of his lecture Dave Wineland gave insight into his current research interests and the related results on increasing the size of quantum systems based on trapped ions in a scalable way to exploit them as a platform to realize experimental quantum simulations and, within the next one or two decades, a universal quantum computer. However, despite the challenging applications being a striking motivation to further evolve the field, he reminded all of us convincingly, not to underestimate the beauty of quantum effects and their substantial importance in nature on a fundamental level.
Dave Wineland meets PhD students
During his visit Dave Wineland offered an open discussion with the university's PhD students. In spite of his busy schedule, he took about 90 minutes of his time to listen to some of our most pressing questions on the current state of atomic and quantum physics. Since only PhD students had been invited to the meeting and the setting chosen was deliberately informal, students were given a unique chance to get closer to the co-inventor of laser cooling.
The discussion quickly turned lively and it became clear that Dave Wineland not only lives up to his role as a great scientist but also as a teacher and mentor. The discussed topics revolved around questions such as: Where does the future of quantum information lie? How much do we understand about the foundations of quantum mechanics? What makes a good researcher? As for the last question, paraphrasing Dave's words and his humble ways, it boils down to this: "You don't need to be a genius but just enjoy what you're doing and keep at it."
(Written by the representative of the PhD students in experimental physics of the Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg)