Quantum games: Artist’s impression of the Alice Challenge experimental setup. (Courtesy: ScienceAtHome/Aarhus University)

Topics: Bose-Einstein Condensate, Electromagnetic Radiation, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Citizen scientists have outperformed physicists in creating Bose–Einstein condensates (BECs) of ultracold atoms. That is the finding of an international team of scientists and social scientists, which ran the first-ever optimization challenge in which the public was able to create a BEC remotely by manipulating laser beams and magnetic fields. Optimization experts using state-of-the-art algorithms took a similar challenge and both groups created BECs containing more atoms than the physicists who had built the experiment – even though the physicists had months to perfect their techniques.

By studying the behavior of the 600 citizen scientists who participated, the team has uncovered insights into what makes human problem solving unique. As well as providing hints for creating advanced algorithms based on human intuition, the study suggests how to exploit the best of human and artificial intelligence in the future.

The research was done by Jacob Sherson and colleagues at Aarhus University in Denmark, Ulm University in Germany and the University of Sussex in the UK. Sherson and some of his colleagues have been involved in the ScienceAtHome project, which develops games that use the brainpower of the general public to solve quantum science challenges. In 2016, they described how more than 10,000 players of one of these games – Quantum Moves –had efficiently optimized operations that could run a hypothetical quantum computer. “[With Quantum Moves], we documented that humans can contribute to solving complex challenges,” says Sherson. “With our current work we now take on the challenge of starting to answer how they contribute.”

Citizen scientists excel at creating Bose–Einstein condensates Benjamin Skuse, Physics World

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