Friday, June 18, 2010

Bose-Einstein Condensation in Microgravity

A very cool {pun not intended} experiment of using BE condensate in a "microgravity" environment.

T. van Zoest et al., "Bose-Einstein Condensation in Microgravity", Science v.328, p.1540 (2010).

Abstract: Albert Einstein’s insight that it is impossible to distinguish a local experiment in a "freely falling elevator" from one in free space led to the development of the theory of general relativity. The wave nature of matter manifests itself in a striking way in Bose-Einstein condensates, where millions of atoms lose their identity and can be described by a single macroscopic wave function. We combine these two topics and report the preparation and observation of a Bose-Einstein condensate during free fall in a 146-meter-tall evacuated drop tower. During the expansion over 1 second, the atoms form a giant coherent matter wave that is delocalized on a millimeter scale, which represents a promising source for matter-wave interferometry to test the universality of free fall with quantum matter.

A Perspective article on this work can also be found in the same issue of Science. I also found what appears to be a presentation viewgraphs on this work by one of the authors of the paper. But what is even cooler is that Wired has an article on this that includes a video of the drop.

I only wish that Wired didn't go along that sensationalistic approach by making the suggestion that Eintein's equivalence principle has been shown to be wrong. No such thing was done here. As with many other advancement in accuracy, it simply opens the door for us to test something more precisely. If and when we find discrepancy between measurement and theory, only THEN do we start making the suggestion that something isn't fully kosher here. But not before then.


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