The 29th International Conference on Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions [XXIX ICPEAC] was held at the Palacio de Congresos “El Greco”, Toledo, Spain, on 22–28 July, 2015. ICPEAC is held biannually and is one of the most important international conferences on atomic and molecular physics. The conference gathered 670 participants from 52 countries.
During the conference, 854 contributed papers were presented in poster sessions, covering the recent progresses in photonic, electronic, and atomic collisions with matter (most of them can now be checked at online at J. Phys. Conf. Series, 635 (see http://iopscience.iop.org/1742-6596/635). In addition, five plenary lectures, including the opening one by the Nobel laureate Prof. Ahmed H. Zewail and the lectures by Prof. Maciej Lewenstein, Prof. Paul Scheier, Prof. Philip H. Bucksbaum, and Prof. Stephen J. Buckman, 62 progress reports and 26 special reports were presented.
On the occasion of the International Year of Light (IYL2015) and thanks to the support of the Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (FECYT) – Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO), the program was completed with two public lectures delivered by the Nobel laureate Prof. Serge Haroche and the Príncipe de Asturias laureate Prof. Pedro M. Echenique on, respectively, “Fifty years of laser revolutions in physics” and “The sublime usefulness of useless science”. Also a popularization initiative was held in parallel to the conference, consisting of a poster exhibition for the general public and an International Science Camp for children. Furthermore, before the conference, four distinguished scientists: Prof. Thomas F. Gallager, Prof. Jan Michael Rost, Prof. Joseph H. Macek, and Prof. Reinhard Dörner presented tutorial lectures. Further details can be checked at the conference website: www.icpeac2015.es
In the framework of XXIX ICPEAC, the Nobel laureate Serge Haroche delivered a Public Lecture to commemorate the International Year of Light. In just one hour, the French Nobel Prize laureate, born in Casablanca, transported the audience on a journey through time recalling the milestones that have built the science of light: from the first “Book of Optics” published by Ibn Al Haythem a millennium ago, passing through the wave theories of Fresnel 200 years ago, the 150th anniversary of Maxwell’s equations, the centenary of Einstein’s general theory, and the 50 years of lasers. Serge Haroche also presented to the general public some of the latest scientific advances in this field, as for example, his work on the cooling of matter, down to temperatures unthinkable a few decades ago, or the development of atomic clocks capable of measuring fractions of time as small as a millionth of a trillionth of a second.
In closing, he reminded the audience of the importance of basic research, giving as an example the invention of lasers. Studies conducted without a specific goal, without seeing what applications would be, are currently incorporated in our daily lives, CD players, laser pointers, medicine, telecommunications, etc. Lasers that in turn are used to learn even more about fundamental physics “to satisfy curiosity, human curiosity, the curiosity of society”, for reasons beyond economy or industry.