University of Calgary

DAMOP conference

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Great minds push limits of physics


By Jag Samra

Some of the greatest minds in science will meet in Calgary from June 5 to 9 to discuss new innovations in the field of ultra-small physics.

weimanThe meeting is expected to attract more than 800 participants, including Theodore Hänsch, John Hall and Roy Glauber, who received the Nobel Prize in physics in 2005. It will be the first time the three have appeared together since receiving their prize in Geneva.

The pre-eminent event in its field, the 38th annual DAMOP/DAMPΦ conference is being co-organized by physicists in the University of Calgary’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

It is sponsored by the Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP) of the American Physical Society (APS), and the Division of Atomic and Molecular Physics and Photonic Interactions (DAMPΦ) of the Canadian Association of Physicists.

Speakers will include well-known physicist Paul Corkum, whose pioneering work led to the production of the world’s shortest light pulses—flashes of light that are an attosecond, or a billionth of a billionth of a second long. The discovery has caused a stir in the science community because it pushes the limits of knowledge at the smallest scales of physics.

Studies in the basic science of physics such as those covered annually at this conference have driven many technological revolutions, including the development of the laser.

“When lasers were developed, they were a solution looking for a problem,” says U of C physics professor and conference chair Dr. Rob Thompson. “Now, you can’t walk down the street or buy anything at the grocery store without encountering that technology.”

Limits will keep being pushed at this year’s conference with talk of discoveries at the boundaries of scientific knowledge, including the ultra-cold, ultra-fast and ultra-small. “We’re probing a regime that’s never been probed before,” says Thompson.

This year’s meeting also features an Educator’s Day, in which Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Carl Weiman will host a one-day session for Canadian high-school teachers on modern physics research, and new tools and techniques for physics instruction.