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Monitoring and manipulating Higgs and Goldstone modes in a supersolid quantum gas

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Science  15 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6369, pp. 1415-1418
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan2608

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Breaking the symmetry in a supersolid

The concept of broken symmetry has relevance across all branches of physics, including particle and condensed matter physics. In many cases, the shape of the potential energy resembles a Mexican hat, and the symmetry of the system is broken when it chooses a particular spot along the “trough” of the hat. Out of this minimum-energy state, the system can undergo collective excitations either along the trough or perpendicular to it. Léonard et al. detected these so-called Goldstone and Higgs modes in a supersolid Bose-condensed atomic gas held in two crossed optical cavities. By monitoring the dynamics of the light field in each cavity, the oscillations of the order parameter associated with both modes were observed in real time.

Science, this issue p. 1415

Abstract

Higgs and Goldstone modes are collective excitations of the amplitude and phase of an order parameter that is related to the breaking of a continuous symmetry. We directly studied these modes in a supersolid quantum gas created by coupling a Bose-Einstein condensate to two optical cavities, whose field amplitudes form the real and imaginary parts of a U(1)-symmetric order parameter. Monitoring the cavity fields in real time allowed us to observe the dynamics of the associated Higgs and Goldstone modes and revealed their amplitude and phase nature. We used a spectroscopic method to measure their frequencies, and we gave a tunable mass to the Goldstone mode by exploring the crossover between continuous and discrete symmetry. Our experiments link spectroscopic measurements to the theoretical concept of Higgs and Goldstone modes.

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