It’s an ingenious plan with two major problems: first, the super-cold atom clouds are extraordinarily hard to make. Second, the best way to test gravity is to make sure that no other forces are acting on an experiment. Short of launching it into orbit, the best way to do that is to drop the whole experimental apparatus so that it goes into free fall.
Incredibly, Rasel and his team have now licked both problems. They devised a special self-contained canister that can automatically generate a BEC. They then dropped the canister from the 146-metre-high drop tower at the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity in Bremen, Germany.
This is one of the experiments I mentioned in a discussion of chip-scale atomic physics a while back. And while it’s hard, I don’t know that it’s extraordinarily hard — the workshop I summarized was part of a push to move this type of technology forward. You get a lot of smart people thinking about the problem, trying different things, and you find solutions. But it is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.
here’s another story on the topic: Scientists Drop Theory of Everything Down Elevator Shaft