NASA Attempting to Create Coldest Spot in Universe in Box

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NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory will attempt to create an environment 10 billion times colder than the vacuum of space on the International Space Station.

Originally designed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the device that is about the size of a cooler will use “lasers and magnets to slow a cloud of atoms to one billionth of a degree above absolute zero,” according to space.com.

In a statement, CAL Project Scientist Robert Thompson of JPL, stated “The goal of the experiment is to observe microscopic quantum phenomena that only happen near that temperature. When these clouds of atoms are chilled that far, the regular laws of physics begin to give over to the laws of quantum physics, in which matter starts to behave like waves rather than particles, and rows of atoms begin to “… move in concert with one another as if they were riding a moving fabric. These mysterious waveforms have never been seen at temperatures as low as what CAL will achieve,” as reported by bigthink.com.

This resulted in “superfluids” that have no viscosity, meaning their atoms have no friction. “If you had superfluid water and spun it around in a glass, it would spin forever,” said Anita Sengupta of JPL, Cold Atom Lab project manager. “There’s no viscosity to slow it down and dissipate the kinetic energy. If we can better understand the physics of superfluids, we can possibly learn to use those for more efficient transfer of energy.”

The clouds have been created on Earth before, but because of the gravity, have dissipated within a fraction of a second. Kamal Oudrhiri, Deputy Project Manager at JPL, said, ” Even with all of our current technologies, we are still blind to 95 percent of the universe. Like a new lens in Galileo’s first telescope, the ultra-sensitive cold atoms in the Cold Atom Lab have the potential to unlock many mysteries beyond the frontiers of known physics.”

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