A walk across a quantum lattice

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Science  13 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6227, pp. 1200-1201
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa6885

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Quantum effects emerge from an intricate interplay of the wave nature of massive particles, quantum statistics, and interactions in many-body systems. Each individual aspect can lead to nonclassical behavior and is often well understood; in many-body systems, however, it can be hard to identify the mutual influence of these three aspects on a single-particle level. On page 1229 of this issue, Preiss et al. (1) present an experimental study illustrating the effect of quantum statistics as well as of various interaction strengths on the matter wave quantum dynamics of two ultracold atoms. Starting from the matter wave dynamics of a single atom, adding a second atom allows them to observe the two-body dynamics of interacting bosons. By controlling the interparticle interaction, they are able to bring the atoms into the strongly interacting regime, where the system resembles two weakly interacting fermions. The work by Preiss et al. allows the role of different quantum mechanisms to be identified. It also constitutes a step toward the study of more complex quantum systems in a controlled fashion, where the level of complexity is not accessible to classical simulations.