Greetings and Bienvenue from France!
My name is Andrew Sykes, and I am a theoretical and computational physicist working towards a new understanding of complex phases of matter in quantum-gases which occur at ultra-cold temperatures.
What the heck does that mean, and why on earth would anyone be interested in that?
Have you ever wondered how so much information can be stored and then accessed so efficiently in a device as small as your cell phone? What about that LCD screen you’re probably staring at right now … how does that thing work? These are examples of technology where the underlying microscopic physics is comprised of many-particles, all strongly interacting with one another, conspiring to yield an ordered macroscopic state. Huh?! In the first example, information can be accessed and manipulated because we know and understand an effect called giant-magneto-resistance. This is an effect where the electrical conductivity of a material exhibits an enormous sensitivity to magnetic field. Because it is so sensitive, we can store a bit of information on such remarkably small regions of a hard-disk-drive. And that LCD screen, that basically came about because we have learned how to create and manipulate a phase of matter known as a Liquid-Crystal, and we understand how its optical properties are altered by electric fields.
So why quantum gases at ultra-cold temperatures? These are modern state-of-the-art materials, which we have only very recently learned how to create, and as our understanding develops, so too does our ability to manipulate them, and make them do weird and unique things!
Bear in mind, liquid crystals remained nothing more than a scientific curiosity for around 80 years (before everyone started carrying them around in their pockets), so we can’t yet say exactly when and why quantum-gases will be useful, but a clearer understanding is beginning to emerge.