The Observation of Matter Wave Fluctuations

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Science  28 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5748, pp. 631-632
DOI: 10.1126/science.1120023

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In the 1950s, Hanbury Brown and Twiss developed a novel way to measure the size of stars by studying the coherence of the light they emit. These intensity correlations, at the time obtained from an incoherent thermal source of radiation, were the source of confusion at first but ended up initiating an entire new field of physics: the discipline of quantum optics. In his Perspective, Knight discusses results reported in the same issue by Schellekens et al. in which these same correlation effects have been seen in cold atomic gases, giving rise to intensity correlations of matter waves. The findings suggest a host of new opportunities in this field of quantum atom optics.