Cold atoms twisting spin and momentum

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Science  07 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6308, pp. 35-36
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah7087

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Inspired by the intriguing topological phenomena recently observed in condensed-matter systems (1), a variety of different research areas, from optical to mechanical systems, have devoted their studies to topological physics. Owing to their high level of experimental controllability, cold atomic gases offer a promising platform to simulate condensed-matter models. Their charge neutrality, however, is an apparent limitation. To overcome these constraints, new experimental techniques are currently being developed that mimic the physics of charged particles. On page 83 of this issue, Wu et al. (2) report on such a new experimental technique to simulate two-dimensional (2D) spin-orbit coupling (SOC) for neutral atoms in an optical lattice—an important ingredient to explore topological quantum states.