How large does a group of particles have to be to render moot its exact number of particles?
In experiments using ultracold atoms, Heidelberg physicists succeeded in observing the transition to a many-body system well described by an infinite number of particles. In philosophy, this problem is known as the sorites paradox. The essential question is when a collection of elements forms a "heap".
The experiments were conducted by researchers of Heidelberg University under the direction of Prof. Dr. Selim Jochim at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics. The results of the research were published in "Science".
"Systems comprising many particles are generally extremely difficult to describe in a microscopically exact way. Hence researchers tend to work with effective theories that look not at the individual particles, such as gas molecules in the air, but at macroscopic values such as pressure or temperature," explains Jochim. The Heidelberg researchers prepared the systems so small they could still be described microscopically. Starting with a single atom, the scientists increased the number of particles one by one.
The energy of the entire system was measured with each added particle. The experiments ultimately showed that for the system under study very few atoms were needed to apply the theory derived for an infinitely large system. "We can identify this as the direct transition from a few-body system into a many-body system. Simply put, in our system it takes only about four atoms to form a 'heap' in the sense of the sorites paradox," continues the Heidelberg physicist.
Two years ago Jochim's team was able to reproducibly control the system used for the current experiments in all of its properties, including the exact number of particles, their state of motion and their interaction. "To date we are the only research team in the world able to prepare such systems," Prof. Jochim points out. "For the first time, these results realise our vision to gain a much deeper insight into the nature of fundamental few-body systems by these experiments.
Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw
Midwife and signpost for photons
11.12.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
New research identifies how 3-D printed metals can be both strong and ductile
11.12.2017 | University of Birmingham
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
11.12.2017 | Information Technology