Researchers find super-solid by looking at a normal solid

Computer artwork of the nucleus of a helium atom, or an alpha particle given off during radioactive decay. The nucleus consists of two positively charged protons (red) and two neutral neutrons (green) surrounded by a quantum cloud of gluons, a type of subatomic particle.

Enlarge / Computer artwork
of the nucleus of a helium atom, or an alpha particle given off
during radioactive decay. The nucleus consists of two positively
charged protons (red) and two neutral neutrons (green) surrounded
by a quantum cloud of gluons, a type of subatomic particle.
(credit: Getty Images)

In recent months, I’ve
mentioned super-solids
a
couple of times
, which is a bit unusual for something we
haven’t been sure actually exists. However, a recent paper seems to
offer some quite strong
confirmation
that super-solids are real. That means it is time
to delve into the weird and wonderful world of low-temperature
helium.

Helium is, without a doubt, the Universe’s weirdest material,
beating out molecular hydrogen by a rather long nose. The key to
helium’s strangeness is that it is normally a boson: a helium-4
atom consists of two protons, two neutrons, and two electrons,
which sums to an even number, making a composite boson.

Helium is confusing

What does all that mean? It means that when cold enough, a group
of helium atoms can enter the same quantum state. Even though they
are spread out over a whole vessel, they all know something about
the condition of their distant neighbors. This enables the helium
atoms to flow without resistance, a state called a superfluidity.
It’s good company among other weird and wonderful properties of
helium.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Researchers find super-solid by looking at a normal solid