What’s the matter?

We all learned that matter is anything that has mass and takes up space. Our teachers told us there are three states or phases of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Some of us with cool high school teachers or college teaching assistants learned about another state: plasma. Then there were those of us who wanted a degree in physics who learned there were many more. Extremely low temperatures yield superfluids, supersolids, Fermionic condensates, and Bose-Einstein condensates. Particle accelerators give us quark-gluon plasmas. Stars hold degenerate matter, neutronium, and strange matter. And then there are a few states of matter associated with the instant after the Big Bang.

I found this article about a newly discovered form of matter.

MIT physicists create new form of matter. CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — MIT scientists have brought a supercool end to a heated race among physicists: They have become the first to create a new type of matter, a gas of atoms that shows high-temperature superfluidity.

It’s always mind-boggling, the things that happen at the extremes of temperature, size, time, speed, or distance. If one day we are able to harness these phenomena, our civilization will undergo a paradigm shift. Our lives will be forever changed in a qualitative way, rather than the incremental way that normal technological advancements tend to do.

For now, though, we can only watch these things from the window of the hovel we’re confined to. Taunting us, prodding us, these extreme behaviors educate us that our day to day experience on Earth is only a tiny subset of the complexity of the universe.

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