SIGNIFICANT EVENTS - SCIENCE EVENTS
10/31/03

Fundamental Physics Degenerate Fermion Research Described in Two More Articles

A "News Focus" article written by Adrian Cho in Science Magazine (Science 301, 750 (2003)) describes the race to discover superfluidity in clouds of ultracold fermion atoms, including the work of three groups in the Fundamental Physics program. Titled "Ultracold Atoms Spark a Hot Race," with a subtitle of "A much-anticipated atomic soup might lay bare the inner workings of high-temperature superconductors, neutron stars, and primordial matter - and perhaps win its creator a Nobel prize," the 3-page article describes the research being performed in the Laser Cooled Atomic Physics subdiscipline to learn the properties of fermion atoms cooled to temperatures very near absolute zero. Featuring a picture of PI Randy Hulet's team in his lab at Rice, and quotes from PI John Thomas (Duke) and PI Wolfgang Ketterle (MIT), the article discusses how (fermionic) electrons form pairs to become superconducting, and how scientists expect the degenerate fermion atoms to follow the same course into superfluidity. Even more, Thomas declares, "All of a sudden, you have a desktop experiment that cuts across all fields of physics."

A sequence of photos of a cloud of ultracold lithium-6 atoms by the Thomas group is at the top of the 2nd article, this one written by Graham P. Collins as a News Scan feature in the October issue of Scientific American. Quoting the first two sentences in this article: "It occurs in objects as diverse as superconductors, atomic nuclei and neutron stars. Several research groups are in a race to recreate it in the laboratory in microscopic specks of ultracold gas." With sidebars on "Superfluid?" and "A Bunch of Degenerates," 'It' is defined to be the superfluid state predicted to occur in interacting fermion atoms. The brief article quotes recent results obtained in the search for superfluidity by the Thomas group and by the Ketterle group to develop techniques for creating and detecting the highly-sought state in these systems.



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