Nobel Prize winner William Phillips will deliver a presentation entitled “Time, Einstein and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe” to a full house tonight at 8 p.m.

The renowned scientist will present a multimedia demonstration on how he has adopted Einstein’s conceptions of time in his development of atomic clocks, which are used in Global Positioning Systems to improve the aerospace, military, commerce and geocaching industries. The talk is being presented in conjunction with the 44th Annual Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics public lecture series, which will be held in KITP’s main seminar room.

William Phillips

Although the theoretical concepts may sound convoluted, Phillips said the lecture will present the material in an entertaining, comprehensible way.

“The central premise is that we are going to be having a lot of fun,” Phillips said.

Phillips and his colleagues received the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for cooling atoms to unmatched temperatures with lasers. Phillips is a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute — a research organization of scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the University of Maryland — where he researches laser cooling and trapping.

According to Phillips, he is currently working to make atomic particles as cold as possible — gases can only currently reach temperatures less than one billionth of a degree above absolute zero — in order to perfect Atomic Clock measurements. Cold atoms can improve the accuracy rates of primary clocks to a second within a range of 100 million years.

“We can make things colder than has ever been recorded in the universe,” Phillips said.

Physics professor Dirk Bouwmeester, who is also working in the field of laser cooling, said he has been able to freeze mechanical structures to similarly low temperatures of 100 millikelvin above zero. However, Bouwmeester said he understands that complications can arise when trying to achieve these unnatural temperatures.

“This is an extremely technical issue … atoms have to be in a high quality vacuum,” Bouwmeester said.

Phillips said the laws of physics present a challenge for scientists working to cool atoms.

“If we could reach absolute zero 99 percent of the time, there would still be the one percent of the time where you are not at absolute zero,” Phillips said.

Students who haven’t reserved a seat to tonight’s event should arrive at least half an hour early. Although the event is sold out, seats may become available if ticket-holders fail to claim their reservations by 7:50 p.m.

The KITP public lecture series offers a total of three to four physics lectures every school year.