What happens to matter when it is heated to more than 250,000 times the temperature in the center of the sun? When cooled to 1 billion times colder than interstellar space?
Physicist Gordon Baym discusses the terrestrial experiments that explore these extremes as Cornell's 2013 Hans Bethe lecturer. His public lecture, Quarks and Cold Atoms: From the Hottest to the Coldest Places in the Universe, was held March 27 in Schwartz Auditorium, Rockefeller Hall.
Baym, professor of physics and the George and Anne Fisher Professor of Engineering Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been focusing his recent work on theoretical studies of the quark-gluon plasma, which existed in the first few microseconds after the big bang. These plasmas are created on Earth by colliding gold atoms at ultrarelativistic speeds.
In parallel he has been studying Bose-Einstein condensates and related quantum states found in laser cooled atomic clouds. Baym has found unexpected connections between these extreme forms of matter.
The Hans Bethe Lectures, established by the Department of Physics and the College of Arts and Sciences, honor Bethe, who was Cornell professor of physics from 1936 until his death in 2005. Bethe won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1967 for his description of the nuclear processes that power the sun.