“Since I'm an atom as big as bacterias I've got to take microwaves serious. No matter what I do, I'll be cryin'… After they hit me, I'll be an ion.” So begins a poem written last year by Peter Koch of Yale, during the stresses of preparing his PhD thesis. With James Bayfield, Koch had been studying highly excited atoms (often called “atoms in high Rydberg states,” or even simply “Rydberg atoms”); the interesting behavior of such atoms has become the subject of current experimental and theoretical work at many centers around the world.

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