Mark Lusk (Colorado School of Mines, Department of Physics)
Mark Siemens (University of Denver)
Abstract: Hydrodynamic whirlpools have fascinated scientists for centuries, seeking to understand their individual structure, stability, and the ways in which they interact with one another. Who hasn’t marveled at tornadoes or watched as soap bubbles get sucked into the vortex of a bathtub drain? To reduce ideas to their essence, such fluid vortices are often considered in a two-dimensional setting where they amount to current swirling around a singularity. These, in turn, bear a striking resemblance to cross-sections of optical vortices that can be created with lasers, but with the propagation axis now treated as time. The vortex center is a then a dark spot about which the phase of light rotates like a barber shop sign. Such engineered light can therefore be interpreted as a two-dimensional, compressible fluid, and the vortices it harbors exhibit all sorts of odd and potentially useful behavior. For instance, optical vortices can attract, repel, scatter, and even annihilate one another. Even more intriguing, these two-dimensional topological objects have a lot in common with the macroscopic quantum states of Bose-Einstein condensates and fractional quantum Hall systems. Pairs can even be used in Bell tests to demonstrate lack of local realism. This motivates a serious consideration of optical vortices as quantum objects that might be harnessed in emerging quantum information technologies. With these deeper issues in mind, our colloquium lecture is intended to serve as an introduction to optical vortices and their classical few-body dynamics. We tag-team an experimentalist and a theorist to provide a fuller perspective of what makes this form of light so interesting.
All lectures are via Zoom.
If you would like to be invited to attend the colloquium via Zoom, please contact Dan Adams (email@example.com) or Serena Eley (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the link.