Eric A. Cornell
Born: 19 December 1961, Palo Alto, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Colorado, JILA, Boulder, CO, USA
Prize motivation: "for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates"
Field: atomic physics
Prize share: 1/3
One of the fundamental numbers in the world of quantum mechanics is the spin quantum number. Particles and atoms that have whole-number spin are described by other rules and equations than those that have half-number spin. Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein predicted in 1924 that at very low temperatures atoms with whole-number spin would be able to concentrate themselves in the lowest energy state and form a Bose-Einstein condensate. In 1995 Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman succeeded in proving the phenomenon in a rarefied gas of rubidium atoms at an extremely low temperature.