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5 lesser-known states of matter that may shape the future



From an early age, we're taught that liquid, solid, and gas are the states of matter.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

Liquid, solid, gas, and plasma simply represent the four most common "natural" states of matter.


Whether or not they appear solid, wet, or wispy depends on the movement of their internal particles as a result of external factors like heat.

Because we interact with these states most often, it makes sense that they're the most well known.


But scientists have found — and created — even wilder states of matter.


These rare or manmade states of matter can help us understand things far beyond our own lives and can help scientists understand everything from star formations to quantum computing.


Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC): This state of matter can be credited to both Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein.

Borrowing from Bose's math, Einstein proposed the existence of this new, super cool (literally) state of matter in 1924. It was later experimentally verified in 1995.

This state of matter can be found at extremely low temperatures and is the result of particles huddling together to form a kind of "super-atom" without molecular motion.

Scientists can create this state in a lab and use it to study quantum mechanics and black holes.


Quark-gluon plasma: This is an incredibly energetic state of matter — a soupy mix of quarks (mini atomic particles that make up protons and neutrons) and gluons (the "glue" that holds quarks together).

This was the state of the Universe right after the Big Bang.

Degenerate matter: Here, degenerate refers to a state of matter that's just under a lot of pressure.

It's found at the core of stars and occurs when gas inside the core becomes so compressed that its source of pressure transforms from thermal to quantum.


Superconductivity: Unlike some of the more theoretical states of matter, you might be lucky enough to get a demonstration of superconducting materials at your local college physics lab. These materials are supercooled and as a result, offer zero resistance to electricity (meaning they're an extremely good conductor.)


These materials are also impervious to magnetic fields.

IRL, they can be used to make everything from superfast, levitating trains to supercooled and fast electric circuits for quantum computers.

Time crystals: Also called a space-time crystal, this theoretical state of matter is a pretty recent addition to the group. It was proposed in 2012 by MIT professor and Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Frank Wilczek.

Buckle up, things are about to get timey-wimey. >>

Crystals like diamonds are prized for their repeating, geometric patterns and don't change much over time.

Time crystals change in both space and time, meaning the entire crystal changes from moment to moment. Controlling these crystals could be the key to mastering "warm" quantum computing above absolute zero.

To learn about another theoretical state of matter, click here.

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