Category Archives: Physics

This Scientist is OK- Dr. James Shaffer

Dr. James Shaffer is a physicist at the University of Oklahoma. He recently created a new molecule that could lead the way for quantum computing. He loves science and the scientific process because, he says, it’s always on the edge of uncertainty.

A couple of items from this interview…at the 1:08 mark he talks about why he likes the sitcom The Big Bang Theory and at the 2:18 mark he explains why politicians are sometimes misguided when they evaluate scientific research.


OU Researchers Create New Molecule

Scientists at the University of Oklahoma have created a new molecule that may lead the way to quantum computing. Dr. James Shaffer and his team created the molecule by manipulating the electron inside an atom causing it leave the atom, this caused another atom to reach out to it creating what’s called a Dipole Moment(Obviously, this is a way watered-down version of this process.)

The Dipole Moment created by the OU researchers is the largest on record.

Quantum computers are much faster than conventional computers and are based on a large Dipole Moment. Dr. Shaffer explains in this video how his breakthrough could help develop quantum computing and why that’s important.

Below is a news release from the University of Oklahoma that has some details.

OU Physicists First to Create New Molecule with Record-Setting Dipole Moment

Norman, Okla.—A proposed pathway to construct quantum computers may be the outcome of research by a University of Oklahoma physics team that has created a new molecule based on the interaction between a highly-excited type of atom known as a Rydberg atom and a ground-state atom.  A unique property of the molecule is the large permanent dipole moment, which reacts with an electric field much like a bar magnet reacts with a magnetic field.

“This is the largest electric dipole moment ever observed in a molecule,” says James Shaffer, professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, OU College of Arts and Sciences.  Shaffer and his team want to produce enough of these molecules to carry out future experiments on dipole interactions.  Dipole interactions between particles may provide a pathway for constructing scalable quantum computers.

Donald Booth, the lead graduate student on this project, says the molecule is formed when an electron from the Rydberg atom grabs onto the ground-state atom. OU researchers excite the Rydberg atom using lasers in a cloud of ground-state atoms, so the Rydberg electron can collide with a ground-state atom and form the molecule.

A paper by OU physicist James Shaffer on this research has been published in Science magazine at