News of the WeekSUPERFLUIDS

Tweaking Twisters in a Quantum World

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Science  08 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5438, pp. 213
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5438.213

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When a vortex is created In the frictionless world of superfluids, it spins forever. Now a team of physicists has stirred up and clocked such a vortex, a long-awaited step toward hands-on probing of this key feature of superfluidity. The team was able to tease out the quantum properties of the atoms to map the swirling flow--a feat akin to tracking a hurricane by clocking its raindrops. The action took place in a dilute vapor of rubidium atoms, all in the same quantum state, called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).