The experimental revolution in ultracold atomic gas physics over the past decades has brought tremendous amounts of new insight to the world of degenerate quantum systems. Here we compare and contrast the developments of cold atomic gases with the physics of nuclei since many concepts, techniques, and nomenclatures are common to both fields. However, nuclei are finite systems with interactions that are typically much more complicated than those of ultracold atomic gases. The similarities and differences must therefore be carefully addressed for a meaningful comparison and to facilitate fruitful crossdisciplinary activity. We first consider condensates of bosonic and paired systems of fermionic particles with the mean-field description, but take great care to point out potential problems in the limit of small particle numbers. Along the way we review some of the basic results of Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC) and Bardeen–Cooper–Schrieffer (BCS) theory, as well as the BCS–BEC crossover and the Fermi gas in the unitarity limit, all within the context of ultracold atoms. Subsequently, we consider the specific example of an atomic Fermi gas from a nuclear physics perspective, comparing degrees of freedom, interactions, and relevant length and energy scales of cold atoms and nuclei. Next we address some attempts in nuclear physics to transfer the concepts of condensates in nuclei that can in principle be built from bosonic alpha-particle constituents. We also consider Efimov physics, a prime example of nuclear physics transferred to cold atoms, and consider which systems are more likely to show interesting bound state spectra. Finally, we address some recent studies of the BCS–BEC crossover in light nuclei and compare them to the concepts used in ultracold atomic gases. While many-body concepts such as BEC or BCS states are applicable in both subfields, we find that the interactions and finite particle numbers in nuclei can obscure the clear meaning they have in cold atoms. On the other hand, universal results from atomic physics should have an impact on certain limits of the nuclear domain. In particular, with advances in the trapping of few-body atomic systems we expect a more direct exchange of ideas and results.
Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics, 2013, Vol 40, Issue 5