Scientists create a superfluid with negative mass that accelerates backwards.
Scientists at Washington State University created a fluid with the previously-theorized (and rather counterintuitive) property of negative mass.
This is the first time a negative mass has ever been observed under laboratory conditions and can lead to advancements in our understanding of such hard-to-study topics as black holes, dark matter and neutron stars.
What's unusual about the created fluid is that when you push on it, it doesn't accelerate in the direction where it was pushed, as you would expect. Instead, it accelerates back, towards you. Scientists have previously hypothesized matter could have negative mass the way a particle can have a negative charge. But they have not been able to show it definitively until this study.
“What’s a first here is the exquisite control we have over the nature of this negative mass, without any other complications,” said Michael Forbes, professor of physics and astronomy at WSU and the study’s co-author.
Forbes and the team led by WSU professor Peter Engels used lasers create the conditions for observing negative mass. First, they cooled rubidium atoms to nearly absolute zero. In the resulting state, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, particles move super slowly, behaving like waves according to the principles of quantum mechanics. What also happens is that particles form what’s called a “superfluid”, moving in unison without loss of energy.
The scientists then used lasers to change the spin of the atoms in the fluid, making them behave like they had negative mass.
“Once you push, it accelerates backwards,” said Forbes. “It looks like the rubidium hits an invisible wall.”
Some scientists have pointed out that what’s created here is “negative effective mass,” with Sabine Hossenfelder of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies explaining the difference this way:
“Physicists use the preamble ‘effective’ to indicate something that is not fundamental but emergent, and the exact definition of such a term is often a matter of convention. The ‘effective radius’ of a galaxy, for example, is not its radius. The ‘effective nuclear charge’ is not the charge of the nucleus. And the ‘effective negative mass’ – you guessed it – is not a negative mass. The effective mass is merely a handy mathematical quantity to describe the condensate’s behavior,” Hossenfelder said on her blog.
Regardless of the wording, researchers agree that this is a significant advancement in experiments involving supercooling atoms and pave the way for studying complex cosmic phenomena.
You can read the study here, in the journal Physical Review Letters.
There's a place Americans feel they can do anything, and it's not Las Vegas.
There's a place Americans feel they can do anything, and it's not Las Vegas. Car crashes, sex acts, Walmart, stuffed animals: where else but Florida could these four things be part of the same narrative? Florida is weird alright, but if you ask humorist Dave Barry, it’s not so much about the place but the kind of strangelings it attracts. Located at an opportune intersection of borders and water, it is a hotbed for smuggling and other criminal enterprises, and with that comes all kinds of characters and a sense that anything — anything — goes. Having lived there for 30 years, Barry considers himself truly Floridian. This is his love letter to all the strange things that go down there. Dave Barry is the co-author of For This We Left Egypt?.
These are some of the strangest human inventions.
For all the iPhones, virtual reality headsets, deep space rocket engines and self-driving cars that are a part of our modern world, many a crazy contraption was invented along the way. It’s entirely possible the ideas presented below are not the weirdest inventions ever simply because the truly weird ones probably never got close to the light of day or their creators were somehow destroyed in the process. Still, these are some of the strangest fruits of human ingenuity we know.
1. MOUSETRAP PISTOL - this 1882 invention by James A. Williams of Texas, takes a very serious approach to mice infestations. The product never took off as people were wary of keeping .50-caliber-loaded revolvers patrolling their kitchen floors.
2. TOMATAN - a wearable robot that feeds you tomatoes. Invented by the Japanese juice vendor Kagome, the robot that sits in a harness behind your head pulls out tomatoes and puts them directly in your mouth as you run. It even has a timer.
3. THE IMPULSORIA - the 1850 machine was invented in Italy by Clemente Masserano to utilize animal power on railways.
Photo by Illustrated London News/Getty Images.
4. ANTI-PERVERT HAIRY LEG STOCKINGS - this Chinese invention is supposedly made to ward off would-be attackers from young girls.
5. GROUP SHAVING MACHINE - this 19th-century machine could shave a dozen men at once. One reason for its commercial failure was that it could not alter its movements according to face shape.
Eric Sykes reviving the mass shaving machine, a nineteenth century invention, for a television series. 1960. (Photo by Ken Howard/BIPs/Getty Images)
6. FLIZ - this foot-powered bicycle without pedals, saddle or any gears, was invented by German designers Tom Hambrock and Juri Spetter. The user hangs on a harness in between two wheels, propelling the bicycle by running, then resting feet on the back wheel.
7. MUSTACHE SHIELD - this 1876 mustache shield was patented by Virgil A Gates. The invention was designed to keep facial hair out of the way when eating and drinking. (Photo by M J Rivise Patent Collection/Getty Images)
8. NOSE STYLUS - invented by Dominic Wilcox, this device allows you to keep a hand free for other tasks while you operate the phone with your nose stylus.
9. REVOLVER CAMERA - this Colt 38’s small camera automatically takes a picture when you pull the trigger.
On the left - six pictures taken by the camera. New York, 1938. Source - Nationaal Archief.
10. GRASS FLIP FLOPS - it gives you the sensation of walking on grass, only in your flip-flops.
11. DYNASPHERE - an electrically-driven wheel, capable of speeds of 30mph, invented by Mr J. A. Purves of Taunton and his son.
Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images.
12. AN AUTOMATIC TIP REQUESTER - invented in 1955 by Russell E Oakes, this device saw hotel bellhops as its key market. It would say "No Sale" if the tip was too low.
Photo by Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images.
13. SEA SHOES - invented by M. W. Hulton, these sea-shoes had duckfoot propellers.
Here is the inventor, demonstrating the shoes on the Grand Union Canal. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
14. ICE BABY-CARRYING DEVICE - invented in 1937 by the hockey player Jack Milford, this carrying device allowed him and his wife to carry their baby on ice.
Photo by L. C. Buckley/Fox Photos/Getty Images.
15. CHAIN-SMOKING DEVICE - for when smoking just one cigarette at a time is not enough.
Model Frances Richards smokes a pack of cigarettes all on one cigarette holder. (Photo by Jacobsen/Getty Images)
16. CAT MEOW MACHINE - this 1963 mechanical cat meowing device from Japan can meow ten times a minute, with the eyes lighting up each time. The idea was to use the machine for scaring rats and mice.
Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.
17. LE CELERIFERE - an early bicycle invented by le Comte de Sivrac, circa 1791. An alternative story is that the Comte was invented by the journalist Louis Baudry de Saunier in his 'Histoire de la Velocipede' from 1891.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
18. ALL-TERRAIN CAR - this 1936 wheel-laden monstrosity was an all-terrain car that could descend slopes up to 65 degrees in England.
19. SNOW PROTECTORS - a Canadian invention from 1939, this plastic contraption offered protection for the face in snowstorms.
20. BEATING BREASTS - a 1963 pair of artificial breasts from Japan. The device had a built-in heartbeat and was meant to be a sleeping aid for very young children.
Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.
(BONUS) 21. RADIO STROLLER - this device from 1921 does what it says - it provides the baby with some much-needed radio transmissions.
George Musser explains the central role of weirdness in physics, and shatters the dreams of those who hope humans can one day tap into psychic powers.
If you tell a physicist they’re weird, the correct response should be, "Why thank you." Science journalist and editor George Musser says this particular branch of science is supposed to engage the zany. One hundred years ago, people doubted the existence of atoms; the job of physics is to go beyond our everyday experience, to think of ‘what if’ ways to explain the world and prove them by relating the truly strange back to reality until one day, invisible things like atoms are a given.
Physics is fun precisely because it’s so weird, and the weirdness of it really is pivotal. "In fact if the theory isn’t weird, you kind of doubt it because you might worry that your own biases are intruding into the theory and causing you to think the world is a certain way when you’re not listening to the way the world actually is. So weirdness is in a sense a test of theory," Musser says. However there’s an important ‘but’ clinging onto this push for the strange, and that is that a theory can’t be weird just for weird’s sake. The ideas physicists propose have to connect back to what we observe in the world, which is what makes the field so challenging – can we be playful and creative and then rigorous enough to learn the truth about how subatomic particles work?
One of the most wonderfully weird ideas humans are fascinated by is psychic powers – telepathy, telekinesis. But the connections between different particles and objects in the universe don’t support these ideas and Musser states that they undermine the foundation of the spatial laws that our existence is built upon. So as much as we would love psychic ability, it undermines physics. Playfully imagining what those powers might be like, he warns it’s a ‘careful what you wish for’ scenario anyway. It would be great if only you had these powers; your team would always win the baseball! But assuming we’re all equals, each team would have a multitude of brains fighting each other for momentary control. The interference and mess caused by mass mental manipulation of physics would be catastrophic.