Shimon Kolkowitz, a distinguished physicist teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been honored as a 2019 Packard Fellow for Science and Engineering. This prestigious fellowship, recognizing early-career excellence, comes with $875,000 of funding over five years, which Kolkowitz plans to utilize in developing his ultra-precise atomic clock research.
These atomic clocks, touted as the most precise instruments ever built by humankind, are central to Kolkowitz's exploration of fundamental physics concepts like the relationship between quantum mechanics and gravity and the enigmatic nature of dark matter.
Kolkowitz's atomic clocks are not ordinary timekeepers. They measure time by observing differences in the energy levels of electrons in atoms, with precision affected by various factors, including environment and atom type. In his lab, these clocks are constructed using strontium atoms, gathered into a small sphere and cooled near absolute zero by lasers.
One of the first experiments Kolkowitz plans is a new test of Einstein's general theory of relativity. He aims to directly test the Einstein equivalence principle – the idea that one cannot differentiate between acceleration and gravity in a closed system. This principle is a cornerstone of general relativity, yet it hasn't been directly tested. Kolkowitz's atomic clocks, existing in the same environment, will measure time differences due to gravity at extremely small height differences, something that hasn't been observed before.
This research could have profound implications. It may reveal new physics, potentially complementing high-energy particle physics experiments in the search for dark matter or dark energy. While the applications of these experiments might not be immediately apparent, they hold the potential to lead research in unexpected and imaginative directions.
The Packard Fellowship's support allows Kolkowitz to venture into research areas that are innovative and highly relevant for quantum information science. His work stands as a testament to the power of precision metrology in advancing our understanding of the universe.
Aspen Quantum Consulting (AQC) is a provider of authoritative scientific due diligence for quantum technology and deep tech. Connect with us if your business is based on a scientific or technological breakthrough and requires validation by reputable experts!