Physicists observe incredible “quantum tornadoes” formed from ultracold atoms

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have seen a stunning demonstration of how classical physics is giving way to quantum behavior by manipulating the liquid of ultracold sodium atoms into a clear, tornado-like formation .

Particles behave differently on a quantum level, in part because at that moment, their interactions with each other have more power over them than the energy of their motion.

Then, of course, there is the stunning fact that quantum particles do not have a specific fixed location, which affects how they interact.

By cooling particles as close to absolute zero as possible and eliminating other interferences, physicists can observe what happens when these strange interactions take effect, just as a group at MIT has just done.

“Being able to see these quantum effects directly is a breakthrough,” says MIT physicist Martin Zwierlein.

The team captured and deployed a cloud of approximately 1 million sodium atoms using lasers and electromagnets. In previous studies, physicists have demonstrated that this transforms the cloud into a long, needle-like structure, a Bose-Einstein condensate, where the gas begins to behave as a single unit with common properties.

The image below shows the density of ultracold atoms in microseconds.

Physicists observe incredible quantum tornadoes formed from ultracold atoms 1

The cloud of atoms formed from a needle-like condensate (left), passed through a serpentine instability (center) and formed tiny tornadoes (right).

Physicists observe incredible quantum tornadoes formed from ultracold atoms 2

There are even tiny dark spots between neighboring crystals (see the “x” icons below) where countercurrent vortices occur – just like we see in complex weather systems (think of the raging storms on Jupiter).


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