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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: July 2010

7 - Physical discussion


In the previous chapters, several important quantities characterizing the cooled atoms have been introduced and calculated. We now discuss the physical content of these results. We first show (Section 7.1) that the momentum distribution (p, θ) can be interpreted as the solution of a rate equation describing competition between rate of entry and rate of departure. This provides a new insight into the sprinkling distribution SR(t) which appears as a ‘source term’ for the trapped atoms. We then consider the tails of the momentum distribution (Section 7.2) and we show that they appear as a steady-state or ‘quasi-steady’-state solution of the rate equation describing the evolution of the momentum distribution. On the contrary, in the central part of this distribution, atoms do not have the time to reach a steady-state or a quasi-steady-state because their characteristic evolution times are longer than the observation time θ. One can understand in this way the θ-dependence of the height of the peak of the cooled atoms (Section 7.3). We also investigate (Section 7.4) the important case where the jump rate R(p) does not exactly vanish when p = 0 and we show that, when θ is increased, there is a cross-over between a regime where Lévy statistics is relevant, as in the previous case, and a regime where a true steady-state can be reached for the whole momentum distribution.