HANK MORGAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY HANK MORGAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Yellow laser beams enclose the steel casing of an "atom trap" at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey. The device confines the atoms of a gas cooled to nearly absolute zero in a "bottle" made from a single laser beam. Normally, atoms are in constant, rapid motion: at very low temperatures their movement slows down sufficiently to allow them to be studied. The atom-trapping technique might be use to improve the precision of the atomic clocks that are used, for example, to establish the location of satellites, or in the study of how atoms interact with material surfaces at ultra-low temperatures.
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