Public Release: 

World's top physicists conclude Amazing Light Symposium

Young Scholars Competition winners announced

Metanexus Institute

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA, OCTOBER 8 - The "Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery" symposium concluded this evening with a Gala Celebration in honor of the 90th birthday of 1964 Nobel Laureate Charles Townes, co-inventor of the laser. More than 900 people attended Amazing Light, held October 6-8 at the University of California, Berkeley, with presentations by some 50 top physicists and researchers -- including 16 Nobel Prize Laureates.

Announced at the Amazing Light Gala, held at the Rotunda Building in Oakland, were the winners of the Young Scholars and Laser Challenge competitions, and a new educational partnership in honor of Townes.

Young Scholars Competition

The Young Scholars Competition awarded more than $100,000 to nine promising and innovative physicists, all under the age of 40. The 18 finalists, from 89 submissions, presented their research papers at the symposium on Friday, October 7.

First prize in the Quantum Physics category went to Brian L. DeMarco of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Loomis Laboratory of Physics, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, for his paper, "Quantum Simulation using Ultra-cold Atoms."

First prize winner in the Astronomy & Cosmology category was Brian G. Keating of the University of California, Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences in La Jolla, California, for his paper, "An Ultra-Sonic Image of the Embryonic Universe"

First prize winner in the Technological Innovations category went to Jun Ye of the University of Colorado, JILA and NIST in Boulder, Colorado, for his paper, "Optical phase control from 10-15s to 15: Precision measurement meets Ultrafast Science"

Each first prize winner receives a cash award of $20,000, with $10,000 each going to three second-prize winners and $5,000 each to the next three finalists. (See below for a complete list of Young Scholars Competition winners.)

Amazing Light Laser Challenge

The Amazing Light Laser Challenge offered $35,000 for a Web site design related to lasers and their impact, or the impact of other discoveries made possible by the laser. The winner is Alexander Karpovich, a designer at GRTOV in Perm, Russia, for his web site

Clemson / Furman Partnership Dedicated to Charles Townes

Clemson University and Furman University announced a partnership to establish joint research and educational initiatives centered on optical and laser science and engineering. The partnership calls for a research and educational institution in lasers and optics and their applications, and an endowed chair in lasers at Clemson, both in the name of Charles Townes, a Furman alumnus. Furman President David Shi and Clemson Vice President of Research and Economic Development Chris Przirembel made the announcement at the Gala.

The Amazing Light symposium explored possibilities for investigating new discoveries about the nature of reality, and for producing new technologies and tools -- such as the laser -- that may generate opportunities for advancement in experimental physics, accelerate scientific creativity, and benefit human life. It covered three major themes, inspired by Professor Townes and derived from some of his ideas and questions:

  • "The Ocean of Truth -- Exploring the Great Unknowns in Physics and Cosmology." Forums on unanswered questions in particle physics, quantum mechanics, general relativity, and dark matter and dark energy.

  • "New Windows to Discovery -- Exploring Possibilities for Innovative Technologies." Seminars on potential breakthroughs in quantum physics and astrophysics, nano- and femtosecond technology, artificial intelligence, biophysics, and technologies waiting to be discovered based on new scientific knowledge.
  • "The 'Big Picture' -- Exploring Questions on the Boundaries of Science." Wide-ranging discussions on the search for "ultimate explanations" in cosmology, purposive order, consciousness, and extraterrestrial life.

Amazing Light was hosted by the University of California, Berkeley and administered by Metanexus Institute, with primary funding provided by the John Templeton Foundation. Research Corporation was a major sponsor of the Young Scholars Competition. Other philanthropic partners included General Motors, Lucent Technologies, Coherent, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Photonics Spectra, Thorlabs, Aesthetic Technologies, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, ESI, and Needham & Company.

A scholarly/scientific volume will be published based on further exploration of the symposium's themes. Complete information on the symposium and competitions is available at:

Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery Young Scholars Competition Winners

Quantum Physics Winners

First Prize
Brian L. DeMarco
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Loomis Laboratory of Physics
Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, USA
"Quantum Simulation using Ultra-cold Atoms"

Second Prize
Steven S. Gubser, Princeton University
Joseph Henry Laboratories, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
"Hairy black holes, phase transitions, and AdS/CFT"

Third Prize
Keith C. Schwab
National Security Agency, Laboratory for Physical Sciences
College Park, Maryland, USA
"Quantum Effects in Small Mechanical Structures"

Astronomy & Cosmology Winners

First Prize
Brian G. Keating
University of California, Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences, La Jolla
California, USA
"An Ultra-Sonic Image of the Embryonic Universe"

Second Prize
Doug P. Finkbeiner, Princeton University
Henry Norris Russel Fellow, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
"The Milky Way as a Laboratory for Dark Matter Annihilation"

Third Prize
Adam G. Riess
Space Telescope Science Institute, STScI
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
"Determining the Nature of Dark Energy Now with HST and Sne Ia at Z71"

Technological Innovations Winners

First Prize
Jun Ye
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado, USA
"Optical phase control from 10-15s to 15: Precision measurement meets Ultrafast Science"

Second Prize
Marin Soljacic
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
"Wireless Non-Radiative Energy Transfer"

Third Prize
Paul Kwiat
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana- Champaign, Illinois, USA
"The Entanglement Revolution"


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