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How can we use low-temperature systems to shed light on questions of more general interest?

Authors
  • Leggett, A. J.1, 2
  • 1 CNRS-Laboratoire de Physique Statistique de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure, 24, rue Lhomond, Paris Cedex 05, 75231, France and , Paris Cedex 05
  • 2 University of Illinois, Dept. of Physics, Urbana, Il, 61801, USA , Urbana
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Low Temperature Physics
Publisher
Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1998
Volume
110
Issue
1-2
Pages
719–728
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1023/A:1022568529873
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Low temperature physics is, almost by definition, that physical regime in which the complicating effects of the noise which is ubiquitous at room temperature has disappeared. How can we exploit this fact to answer questions of more general interest? In the first place, we can attempt to test some basic notions of quantum mechanics, e.g. the applicability of the theory to “macroscopic” collective variables, or the idea that “relative phase” is not defined until it is measured. Secondly, we can use the strongly cooperative tendency of many low-temperature systems, in particular those subject to some form of Bose condensation, to amplify small effects which may be unobservable, or very difficult to observe, at the level of a single particle. Thirdly, we can use low-temperature systems, which often have an extreme degree of purity and freedom from pre-existing defects, to test general notions about e.g. the mechanism of first-order phase transitions. I will discuss these and other possibilities, with particular emphasis on experiments in superfluid3He-B and the BEC alkali gases which have either recently been done or may be possible in the future.

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