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Lyndsay Meyer
The Optical Society

Five Optical Society of America Members Featured in PBS Special

Absolute Zero Premieres on NOVA Jan. 8 and 15

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 – A new PBS special exploring low-temperature physics and the race to reach absolute zero will premiere in January and includes interviews with five members of the Optical Society of America (OSA) who are experts in the field.  Eric Cornell, University of Colorado, JILA; Lene Hau, Harvard; Wolfgang Ketterle, MIT; Daniel Kleppner, MIT; and Carl Weiman, University of Colorado, JILA, all appear in part two of the documentary Absolute Zero on Jan. 15.  Cornell, Ketterle and Weiman won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering a new form of matter that exists at near absolute zero temperatures, called the Bose-Einstein condensate.  Kleppner and Hau have also made significant contributions in the area of Bose-Einstein condensates, including achieving Bose-Einstein condensation in hydrogen and succeeding in reducing the speed of light to 17 m/s by optically inducing a quantum interference in a Bose-Einstein condensate, respectively.

Produced by Emmy Award-winning producer David Dugan in collaboration with executive producer Meredith Burch, and based on Tom Shachtman’s book, Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, this NOVA special will be presented as two hour-long programs on Jan. 8 and 15, 2008 at 8 p.m. (check local listings). (**Note: The documentary can be viewed in its entirety online at: This exploration of the cold frontier is a great saga of science that has led to space travel, quantum computers and frozen food.

Absolute Zero features the struggle of philosophers, scientists and engineers over four centuries as they attempt to understand the nature of cold, from dark beginnings to an ultra-cold end point. Along the way they created cold technologies that have transformed the way we live, and gained insights into the nature of matter itself. NOVA brings this frosty subject to life using a combination of colorful historic recreations and insightful interviews with science historians and Nobel Prize winners. Absolute Zero’s final chapter climaxes with Cornell, Ketterle and Weiman's Nobel-winning breakthrough, the production of a new form of matter that Albert Einstein predicted would exist within a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero. This is a temperature so cold that the physical world as we know it transforms completely, electricity and fluids flow without resistance, and the speed of light can be reduced to the speed of a racing bicycle. 

Absolute Zero was produced by Windfall Films in collaboration with Meridian Productions.  The documentary was made possible by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the BBC.

A national education and awareness campaign has been taking place for the past year in conjunction with the production of the film.  OSA is one of 18 national partners supporting the campaign, which involves educational programming designed to tell the story of Absolute Zero through activities for students in science centers, museums, schools and community centers.

About OSA

Uniting more than 70,000 professionals from 134 countries, the Optical Society of America (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit

About NOVA

Now entering its 35th year of broadcasting, NOVA is produced for PBS by the WGBH Science Unit at WGBH Boston. The director of the WGBH Science Unit and senior executive producer of NOVA is Paula S. Apsell. Funding for NOVA is provided by The DOW Chemical Company, David H. Koch, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public television viewers.