Bose-Einstein Condensate, or BEC, is sometimes referred to as the “fifth state of matter”. It occurs when quantum particles called bosons are supercooled, producing a resultant system where these integer spin particles all occupy the same quantum state. BEC has a number of interesting properties and potential applications.
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BEC is named for Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose. Bose first came up with a statistical analysis of the quantum properties of photons, which he shared with Einstein. Einstein took the work and extended it into theoretical physics, proposing a potential new state of matter.
CORNELL AND WIEMAN:
In 1995, Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman successfully created a BEC in the lab at UC Boulder. Shortly thereafter, Wolfgang Ketterle also achieved a similar result at MIT, and the three shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work.
Rubidium, specifically vaporized rubidium, was the material that Cornell and Wieman successfully used to create the BEC. They used laser-cooling to lower the rubidium vapor to a supercooled state near absolute zero.
One equation connected with BECs that comes up frequently is the Gross-Pitaevskii equation, which gives the single particle wave function for a BEC. This formula only models BECs near absolute zero, however,
DR. LENE HAU:
At Harvard University, Dr. Hau uses a Bose-Einstein condensate in her work on Slow Light. Hau was able to fire a pulse of light into the BEC and first slow light to the neighborhood of 17 mph; she later made adjustments to the procedure that essentially reduced the speed of light to zero.
Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
* LiveScience has a nice explanation of Bose-Einstein Condensates with material for further reading.
* Satyendra Nath Bose was honored in India with the issuing of a postage stamp with his likeness. You can read more about his life and other achievements in Quantum Statistics here.
* Think you know all the states of matter? Think again.
* Here’s a video of Dr. Hau explaining how Slow Light is achieved using BEC:
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