Future Great Experiments

Looking at the ScienceBlogs front page, I suspect that I may be well out of my league, especially when it comes to posting frequency. There's just no way I can post that many entries in one day, especially not a day like Thursday.

In addition to my lab this morning (in which half the students were using a Michelson interferometer to measure laser wavelengths and the index of refraction of air, while the other half measured the speed of light-- it was like a "Greatest Experiment Nominee" re-enactment event. Only with lasers...), we had a visit from Dave DeMille of Yale, who I had invited a while back, so I spent much of the afternoon showing him around.

i-7919ae638b5e899e0d8b77d8e251e8a0-sm_DeMille.jpgDave gave a very nice colloquium talk on a couple of diatomic molecule experiments he's got going on, that are pushing the frontiers of physics with table-top apparatus (particle accelerators are totally weak...). One of them is an Electric Dipole Moment (EDM) experiment, the next generation of a set of experiments that has already invalidated a whole class of theories of physics beyond the Standard Model, as shown in the figure (lifted from an on-line PowerPoint of a different talk by Dave).

I think these experiments are some of the coolest things around, and I devoted a couple of posts to them a while back: first, explaining what a dipole moment is and how to find one, and then explaing what this has to do with particle physics (with ASCII-art Feynman diagrams, even!). Those narrowly missed making the "Greatest Hits" block over to the left, but I'll take this opportunity to plug them here.

Dave says he hopes to be taking useful data in the next couple of weeks, which could spell trouble for the next batch of theories on that graph, if they reach the sensitivity they expect without finding an electric dipole moment. It could be one of the most exciting null results ever.

(Of course, actually finding an EDM would be pretty cool, too, but it's more fun to kill a theory than confirm one...)

The other thing he talked about was the possibility of using diatomic molecules for quantum computation (some days, I swear I'm the only low-energy physicist on Earth not working on a scheme for quantum computation...). It's similar to a scheme that I talked about ages ago. That post is a little dated now, and may be due for an update, when I get time.

More like this

re: number of posts--

I hear you, Chad. I'm lucky if I write 5 posts in a week! I think it'll all be all right -- I expect the people that visited your site regularly before will still visit, and more people will see it now that it's part of ScienceBlogs, so you'll get new visitors as well. But I agree that it's a bit overwhelming to see my one little post buried under 12 Pharyngulas!