Fundamental Physics PIs contribute to Nature Insight Review Articles on Cold Atoms

A recent issue of Nature (Nature 416, March 14, 2002) featured review articles on cold atoms in the Insight section of the journal, several of the articles being written by investigators working in the Fundamental Physics program.

Steve Chu of Stanford wrote an overview titled "Cold Atoms and Quantum Control" where he described the many techniques used to control internal and external degrees of freedom of the cold atoms. He lists control of spontaneous emissions, of optical frequencies, of collisions, of atomic de Broglie waves, and of many-body and macroscopic wavefunctions as new ways that the extreme cooling has permitted probing into this new medium.

Wolfgang Ketterle of MIT, with coauthor James Angelin, writes about "Bose-Einstein condensation of atomic gases", describing both the history and the present state of the research on BECs. They write in their introduction that "Condensates have become an ultralow-temperature laboratory for atom optics, collisional physics and many-body physics, encompassing phonons, superfluidity, quantized vortices, Josephson junctions and quantum phase transitions." After describing recent highlights of this research field, they summarize by providing the outlook for progress in new atomic systems, such as in cold fermion systems that themselves require even lower temperatures than the bosons to reach BEC states. An image depicting quantum vortices in rotating cold atom samples that was generated in Ketterle's group is used as a cover for the Insight section.

Steve Rolston and Bill Phillips of NIST Gaithersburg wrote "Nonlinear and quantum optics," describing how the development of coherent matter waves has led to study and applications of phenomena like coherent atom mixing, 4-wave mixing of atoms, atom amplifiers, solitons, and squeezing of atom numbers. They summarize by stating that "Using the extensive tool kit of atom optics will provide many opportunities to create and probe the unusual many-particle states that quantum mechanics allows."