Physicists use theoretical and experimental techniques to develop explanations of the goings-on in nature. Somewhat surprisingly, many phenomena such as electrical conduction can be explained through relatively simplified mathematical pictures -- models that were constructed well before the advent of modern computation. And then there are things in nature that push even the limits of high performance computing and sophisticated experimental tools. Computers particularly struggle at simulating systems made of numerous particles interacting with each other through multiple competing pathways (e.g. charge and motion). Yet, some of the most intriguing physics happens when the individual particle behaviors give way to emergent collective properties. One such example is high-temperature superconductivity, where the underlying mechanism remains poorly understood.

In the quest to better explain and even harness the strange and amazing behaviors of interacting quantum systems, well-characterized and controllable atomic gases have emerged as a tool for emulating the behavior of solids. This is because physicists can use lasers to force atoms in dilute quantum gases to act, in many ways, like electrons in solids. The hope is studying the same physics in the atom-laser system will help scientists understand the inner workings of different exotic materials.

JQI physicists, led by Trey Porto, are interested in quantum magnetic ordering, which is believed to be intimately related to high-temperature superconductivity and also has significance in other massively connected quantum systems. Recently, the group studied the magnetic and motional dynamics of atoms in a specially designed laser-based lattice that looks like a checkerboard. Their work was published in the journal Science.

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