The dynamics and thermalization of classical systems have been extensively studied in the past. However, the corresponding quantum phenomena remain, to a large extent, uncharted territory. Recent experiments with ultracold quantum gases have at last allowed exploration of the coherent dynamics of isolated quantum systems, as well as observation of non-equilibrium phenomena that challenge our current understanding of the dynamics of quantum manybody systems. These experiments have also posed many new questions. How can we control the dynamics to engineer new states of matter? Given that quantum dynamics is unitary, under which conditions can we expect observables of the system to reach equilibrium values that can be predicted by conventional statistical mechanics? And, how do the observables dynamically approach their statistical equilibrium values? Could the approach to equilibrium be hampered if the system is trapped in long-lived metastable states characterized, for example, by a certain distribution of topological defects? How does the dynamics depend on the way the system is perturbed, such as changing, as a function of time and at a given rate, a parameter across a quantum critical point? What if, conversely, after relaxing to a steady state, the observables cannot be described by the standard equilibrium ensembles of statistical mechanics? How would they depend on the initial conditions in addition to the other properties of the system, such as the existence of conserved quantities? The search for answers to questions like these is fundamental to a new research field that is only beginning to be explored, and to which researchers with different backgrounds, such as nuclear, atomic, and condensed-matter physics, as well as quantum optics, can make, and are making, important contributions. This body of knowledge has an immediate application to experiments in the field of ultracold atomic gases, but can also fundamentally change the way we approach and understand many-body quantum systems. This focus issue of New Journal Physics brings together both experimentalists and theoreticians working on these problems to provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the field.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)