What is a Bose-Einstein condensation good for?
Well, first it is incredibly fragile.
It is the most fragile thing that has ever existed!
Second, physicists are still making very small quantities of it,
only a few million atoms at a time. Finally, they can only make it
out of a few different types of atoms. However, physicists will certainly
figure out how to make more and different kinds, and handle it carefully enough
to keep it around.
Still, that doesn't mean it will be useful for anything.
No, you are right; it doesn't. However, the similarities between BEC
and laser light suggest that it probably will be. What makes laser light
different from ordinary light is that all the photons are exactly the same.
They are the same color and they are all going in the same direction.
It is this "specialness" that allows us to do all sorts of neat things with laser
light, because it means we can control laser light so much better than we could
old fashioned light from light bulbs. BEC shares this same "specialness" with laser
light. All the atoms in the condensate are exactly the same. So this means that we
now have much better control over atoms: where they are and how fast they are moving.
In fact, we now can control them as well as the uncertainty principle will allow.
From the similarities with laser light, it is a pretty good bet that some day BEC
will be good for making very sensitive measurement instruments and maybe making
tiny structures, like they use in computer chips.
So should I start investing in BEC companies?
Maybe not right away. Remember, it took twenty years after their
invention before people started to realize how lasers could be useful.
Now forty years later they are being used in your grocery store, your
dentist's office, and to make your telephone work. So you will probably
have to wait a few years before BEC gets used very much outside the research lab.