Why was the observation of Bose-Einstein condensation by JILA considered so special? I was under the impression that they were not nearly the first group to observe it, since it was observed with superfluid helium-4 much earlier? Is there some reason that since it wasn't a superfluid, it became worthy of a Nobel Prize?

  • $\begingroup$ There was a contention from low temperature physicist John Reppy (from Cornell) who claimed an earlier discovery of BEC in superfluid helium after the 2001 Nobel physics prize was awarded. Check the Wikipedia entry on John Reppy. The same article adds that since superfluid helium is a strongly interacting system, it was not considered a BEC in the purest sense. $\endgroup$ – wcc Mar 17 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ Bose-Einstein condensates found in atomic gases are usually weakly interacting and their description as a condensate fits the bill. Almost all of the population occupies the zero momentum state. On the other hand, strongly interacting superfluid like superfluid helium features what is called quantum depletion - even at zero temperature, significant fraction of the population occupies non-zero momentum states. And to address your last sentence, both atomic gases and helium feature superfluidity at low temperature. $\endgroup$ – wcc Mar 17 at 19:17

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