In his Big Think interview, Phillips talks about how his research in laser cooling made atomic clocks more accurate by many orders of magnitude. Using lasers, he and his team figured out ways to make atoms slow down to the point that they were colder than anyone had thought was possible: "The prediction said that we could get down to temperatures of 240 millionths of a degree. In other words, one-quarter of one-thousandth of a degree above absolutely zero. Pretty cold, right? Well, in fact, we got a whole lot colder than that. And that was the big breakthrough discovery that made a whole lot of other things possible," says Phillips.
Describing himself as a "person of faith," Phillips says that science in no way makes religion obsolete—it just requires a different way of thinking. "Certain ways of interpreting certain scriptures have been made obsolete by science, but that in no way makes religious faith or belief in God obsolete, it just requires what I would consider to be a different outlook, a maturation of religious faith.
For his breakthrough in laser cooling, Phillips and his colleagues were recipients of the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997. Phillips says winning the prize changed his life "dramatically," but that what he has found most fun is that he gets to meet people who are "actually famous," like Dr. Ruth Westheimer.