Linfield University hosts Nobel laureate symposium


Riley Omonaka, News Editor

It’s not every day that the Linfield University community hears President Miles K. Davis say, “I want you all to welcome the person who’s going to blow up a whole bunch of stuff tonight.” In the Ice Auditorium, however, Davis’ voice echoed over an audience that packed every seat.

The person Davis was introducing was none other than William D. Phillips. In addition to being very skilled at blowing things up, Phillips also received the 1997 Nobel Prize for physics. On the eve before the official opening of the new Keck Science Center Phillips gave a presentation titled “Time, Einstein and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe.”

“I’m glad to see so many young people in the front row,” Phillips said. “The front row is much more exciting and only a little bit more dangerous.”

Luckily, Phillips had a little experience in lab safety. Equipped with his protective eyewear (and years of training) no harm came to the attendees. The only thing the audience was in danger of was suffering from a blown mind. He explained how lasers can be used to make atoms four million times colder than outer space.

“Don’t try this at home,” Phillips said.

Phillips wasn’t the only Nobel Laureate in the auditorium, David J. Wineland a 2007 recipient in physics sat only a few feet away in the audience. The two decorated scientists both gave speeches during the Oregon Nobel Laureate Symposium.

During his presentation, Phillips shot trash cans into the air, shattered bouncy balls, levitated magnets and whisked frozen balloons into the audience. All while explaining the properties of atoms and the nature of participating in research.

“You know what an experimental physicist does? We play with toys all day, really cool, really expensive toys,” Phillips said.

True to Davis’ promise of explosions. Phillips both captivated and amazed his audience. Kids chased wisps of liquid nitrogen down the auditorium aisles and laughter swept through the crowd more than once. Phillips’ excitement and enthusiasm for atoms and lasers seeped into every word of his keynote speech. The symposium opened the new science building with a bang (literally).