We consider the interference of two overlapping ideal Bose-Einstein condensates. The usual description of this phenomenon involves the introduction of a condensate wave function with a definite phase. We investigate the origin of this phase and the theoretical basis of treating interference. It is possible to construct a phase state for which the particle number is uncertain, but the phase is known. How such a state would be prepared before an experiment is not obvious. We show that a phase can also arise from experiments using condensates with known particle numbers. The analysis of measurements in such states also gives us a prescription for preparing phase states. The connection of this procedure to questions of spontaneously broken gauge symmetry and to hidden variables is discussed.
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICS