Toward Creating a Rutherford Atom

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Science  18 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5716, pp. 1730-1731
DOI: 10.1126/science.1110367

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Rydberg atoms are atoms with a highly excited electron. In his Perspective, Villeneuve explains that by creating a coherent superposition of Rydberg states, the electron can be made to behave almost like a classical Rutherford atom. He highlights the report by Maeda et al., who show that they can force the electron wave packet to remain localized for thousands of highly elliptical orbits around the nucleus, much like a miniature planetary system. Such experiments help to bridge the gap between the quantum mechanical world and our everyday classical world.