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Researchers Create New Form of Matter (phys.org) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: MIT physicists have created a new form of matter, a supersolid, which combines the properties of solids with those of superfluids. By using lasers to manipulate a superfluid gas known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, the team was able to coax the condensate into a quantum phase of matter that has a rigid structure -- like a solid -- and can flow without viscosity -- a key characteristic of a superfluid. Studies into this apparently contradictory phase of matter could yield deeper insights into superfluids and superconductors, which are important for improvements in technologies such as superconducting magnets and sensors, as well as efficient energy transport. The researchers report their results this week in the journal Nature. The team used a combination of laser cooling and evaporative cooling methods, originally co-developed by Ketterle, to cool atoms of sodium to nanokelvin temperatures. Atoms of sodium are known as bosons, for their even number of nucleons and electrons. When cooled to near absolute zero, bosons form a superfluid state of dilute gas, called a Bose-Einstein condensate, or BEC. To create the supersolid state, the team manipulated the motion of the atoms of the BEC using laser beams, introducing "spin-orbit coupling." In their ultrahigh-vacuum chamber, the team used an initial set of lasers to convert half of the condensate's atoms to a different quantum state, or spin, essentially creating a mixture of two Bose-Einstein condensates. Additional laser beams then transferred atoms between the two condensates, called a "spin flip."
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Researchers Create New Form of Matter

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  • Playing with fire (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lucm ( 889690 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @10:37PM (#53973955)

    Bose-Einstein condensates

    Just remember that if ghost-like warriors are created with this technology, they can be beat with iron.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does this mean they made a frictionless solid? Or a solid that can change shape?

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @11:18PM (#53974111) Homepage Journal

      Well, as near as I can make out, they are describing a phenomenon that is analogous to a standing wave in a river.

      Watch water in a swift river cascade over a ledge. It will form a standing wave behind the ledge which does not move, even though all the matter in it is moving downstream. This is the opposite of a traveling wave in the ocean where the mater doesn't move but the structure does.

      Now so much for analogies. Again as far as I can make out, they coaxed super-cooled sodium atoms into a crystal-like structure which is stable, but allows the constituent atoms move freely within the structure. Again, I suspect this is an analogy too, but I'm at the limit of my understanding of modern physics.

    • by doccus ( 2020662 )

      One step closer to "terminator style" liquid metal soldiers!

  • I never played with it because it was unknown where I grew up, but my child has played with silly putty.
  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @10:57PM (#53974047) Journal

    For those who facepalmed when they saw that Sodium is a boson in TFS ... technically, its most common isotope (Na23) is in fact a composite boson, because the total number of fermion particles is even: 11 protons + 12 neutrons + 11 electrons = 34 fermions, each with spin 1/2. So, the composite Na23 atom is net integer spin, and thus a boson.

    http://theworldofsmall.blogspo... [blogspot.com]

  • Bohr Model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Plus1Entropy ( 4481723 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @12:20AM (#53974365)

    A note to researchers: You know why the Bohr Model of the atom persists in education even though it's wrong? Because it provides a simple starting point that anyone can immediately grasp and then build upon.

    If we (the scientific community) want laypeople to stop rolling their eyes whenever quantum mechanics is mentioned we need to start communicating better. You spent tons of money and years of research to create a supersolid, but you can't make a simple gif animation conveying what it is?

    This is why we have to fight tooth and nail for every cent that goes to NASA while the military can waste hundreds of billions on planes that don't work.

    • Re:Bohr Model (Score:4, Informative)

      by Plus1Entropy ( 4481723 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @12:36AM (#53974419)

      Managed to find this [youtube.com] from 2008. Definitely helps, but also raises questions:

      What conditions make it so a given atom in the lattice will be affected by the motion or not?
      Do the atoms retain their "bonds" (if that even applies), or are they reformed when the motion stops?
      Do the atoms "remember" their original place in the lattice, or do they simply re-establish the "bonds" with those nearest them?
      What would happen, theoretically, if linear motion is applied, or if there was a gap in the disc (like a slice out of a pie)? Would the atoms hit the "wall" or would they pass through it? Would the effect not work under those conditions? If not, why?

      See, now I want you to do more research to answer these questions, if you can't already.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You spent tons of money and years of research to create a supersolid, but you can't make a simple gif animation conveying what it is?

      Which is why I get plenty of spam from small companies and independent consultants willing to make snazzy graphics for my research after every paper I've published. Of course they want $10k or more per nonanimated graphic... but will offer a steep discount if your grant won't pay for that (most smaller ones don't have an outreach component) and need to pay out of your own pocket. Even when I've spent a lot of free time making animations related to research, the PR department says it is not what people wan

    • The Bohr model does have its usefulness, and I am certainly with you that those of us in the sciences need a lot more humility in how we approach the general public with what we think they should know and care about.

      But it is also overextended and the cause of a great deal of frustration for people who want to genuinely understand the bizarre quantum phenomenally we nerds keep excitedly touting, but instead find out that they have hinged their understanding on a lie that is nearly useless outside the narrow

  • The next generation of premium Apple headphones, for which we'll need another dongle.

  • The article said one group of scientist was using mirrors. Now all they have to introduce smoke to the equation Then it will prove my theorem that it is all done with smoke and mirrors. Somewhere down the road I'm sure there is a practical application for all this. I just hope it is not a fluid metal terminator..
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
    But does it really count if it only existed for a femtosecond and no one manages to reproduce it?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    People who made Bose-Einstein condensates and other derivatives thereof have Nobel prizes, heck half of the Higgs "Boson" is even named after him. But they didn't give Nobel prize to Satyendar Nath Bose himself who laid the mathematical and theoretical foundation for all of this.

  • Very few details provided, probably no where close to production. Tell me about it when I can buy the damn thing.
  • and get back to work on the important stuff like Rovables, Scratch, and duoskin

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