To simulate in a laboratory what happens in particle accelerators has been an ambitious goal in the study of the fundamental forces of nature pursued by high-energy physicists for many years. Now, thanks to research conducted by the groups of statistical physics of SISSA and the “Abdus Salam” International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), that goal is closer to reach.
“We have dealt with a gauge theory, more precisely the Schwinger model, which mathematically describes the interaction between microscopic charged particles, like electrons and positrons, and an electric field in one spatial dimension," said Federica Surace, PhD student at SISSA and lead author of the research, recently published on Physical Review X. “We have shown that this theory can be simulated in an experiment with ultracold atoms better than what calculators have done to date. This experiment was conducted in Prof. Lukin’s laboratory at Harvard University.” The study, to which PhD students Paolo P. Mazza, Giuliano Giudici, Alessio Lerose, and their supervisors Andrea Gambassi of SISSA and Marcello Dalmonte of ICTP also contributed, shows that the experiment carried out overseas can be interpreted as a “quantum simulator” of a gauge theory, an important connection because it confirms the potential of the latter to investigate the mysteries associated with the fundamental forces of nature.