A team of physicists demonstrated a paradoxical and phenomenal behavior when they observed pieces of matter passing through one another unimpeded, almost as though they were ghosts.
Ghosts are real. This is the case, at least, in a Rice University laboratory, where physicist Randy Hulet and a team of researchers have demonstrated a bizarre, paradoxical phenomenon in which matter is able to pass through other matter unimpeded. The effect in some cases is as if each piece of matter had completely disappeared relative to the other, sharing space but not.
Hulet’s work is described in today’s edition of Nature Physics.
Clearly, we’re not talking about regular everyday matter here. The Rice team was experimenting with a strange substance known as Bose-Einstein Condensate, which is a state in which all of the atoms making up a chunk of material start behaving in perfect coordination, all sharing the same quantum state together. The result is (relatively) macroscopic matter, hunks made up of several hundred thousand lithium atoms, that behaves like a single particle. The quantum world invades the classical.
These lithium clumps are cooled to one-millionth of a degree above absolute zero, at which point they begin acting like single “matter waves.” As we would describe a quantum object or system in terms of its wavefunction—as possibilities or probabilities rather than actualities—so too would we describe one of these BEC clumps, known solitons.