PerspectivePhysics

Dynamics of a cold quantum gas

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Science  09 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6218, pp. 127
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3016

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Summary

All physical systems evolve in response to changes in their internal parameters and modifications of the environment in which they are embedded. Water vapor in cold air, for example, forms crystals, and this crystallization produces snowflakes, the size and shape of which are determined by parameters such as the rate of cooling, the humidity of the air, and the number of ice nuclei present. Similar complex dynamics can be found in any system, classical or quantum, crossing a phase transition in a dynamical process out of equilibrium. On page 167 of this issue, Navon et al. (1) reveal the dynamics of a transition crossing by following the evolution of a system of cold atoms at the transition from the thermal to the Bose-condensed phase.