Physicists watch as ultracold atoms form a crystal of quantum tornadoes

The formation of weather patterns on Earth are similar to the formation of a crystal from a spinning fluid of quantum particles. The researchers gave this credit.

Classical physics governs the world we experience. The classical assumption is that we can only exist in one place at a time.

The behavior of individual atoms is governed by the principle that a particle's location is a probability. An atom has a chance of being in one location and another at the same time.

A host of strange phenomena should occur when particles interact as a result of these quantum effects. It is difficult to observe the purely quantum mechanical behavior of interacting particles.

MIT physicists have observed the interplay of interactions and quantum mechanics in a spinning fluid of ultracold atoms. Researchers have predicted that interactions will drive the particles to exhibit exotic behaviors in a rotating fluid.

The MIT team has published a study in Nature. They watched as the initial cloud of atoms became a thin, needle-like structure. When classical effects should be suppressed, the needle spontaneously broke into a pattern resembling a string of miniature quantum tornadoes.

"This crystallization is driven by interactions, and tells us we're going from the classical world to the quantum world," says Richard Fletcher, assistant professor of physics at MIT.

The evolution of a rapidly-rotating quantum gas is documented in the results. The evolution of the spinning atoms is similar to how Earth's rotation spins up large-scale weather patterns, according to the Thomas A. Frank Professor of Physics at MIT.

The Coriolis effect that explains Earth's rotation is similar to the Lorentz force that explains magnetism. This gives rise to intriguing pattern formation, like clouds wrapping around the Earth in beautiful spiral motions, even in classical physics. We can study this in the quantum world.

The study's authors are affiliated with the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms and the MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics.

Stand-ins are spinning.

Physicists began observing a new family of matter called quantum Hall fluids in the 1980s. The particles adjusted their behavior to what their neighbors were doing, instead of repelling each other and forming a crystal.

"People discovered all kinds of amazing properties because electrons are frozen in place in a magnetic field, and what's left is purely interactions." This whole world came about. It was very difficult to observe and comprehend.

In a magnetic field, electrons move in very small motions that are hard to see. As the motion of atoms under rotation occurs at larger length scales, they might be able to use utracold atoms as stand-ins for electrons, and be able to watch the same physics.

"We wanted to get these cold atoms to behave like electrons in a magnetic field, but that we could control precisely," he says. We can see if individual atoms obey the same quantum mechanical physics.

The weather is in a carousel.

The physicists used lasers to trap a cloud of about 1 million sodium atoms and cooled them to temperatures of about 100 kilokelvins. They used a system of electromagnets to create a trap and then collectively spun the atoms around, like marbles in a bowl.

The team took a picture of the cloud with a camera, showing a perspective similar to a child's. The researchers observed that the atoms spun into a long, needle-like structure, which reached a critical, quantum thinness after about 100 milliseconds.

"Like cigarette smoke, a classical fluid would keep getting thinner," he says. In the quantum world, a fluid reaches a limit to how thin it can get.

"We had good reason to think we were going to get some interesting, quantum physics when we saw it had reached this limit," says Fletcher, who published the results up to this point in a previous Science paper. What would this needle-thin fluid do when it was purely rotation and interactions?

The team took their experiment a step further to see how the needle-like fluid would evolve. As the fluid continued to spin, they observed a quantum instability kick in, and the needle began to fall, and then corkscrew, and finally broke into a string of rotating blobs, or miniature tornadoes.

"This evolution connects to the idea of how a butterfly in China can create a storm here, due to instabilities that set off turbulence." "Here, we have quantum weather: The fluid, just from its quantum instabilities, fragments into this crystal structure of smaller clouds and vortices." It's a breakthrough to be able to see the quantum effects.

Nature has more information about Martin Zwierlein, crystallization of quantum Hall states in a rotating quantum gas.

The Geometric squeezing into the lowest level of science was written by Richard J. There is a science.aba7202

The journal information is Nature, Science.

Physicists watch as ultracold atoms form a crystal of quantum tornadoes.

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