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Science & Technology

Scientists create fluid with 'negative mass'

By T.K. Randall
April 18, 2017 · Comment icon 15 comments

How can something have negative mass ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Jose Manuel Suarez
Created at Washington State University, the bizarre fluid defies Isaac Newton's Second Law of Motion.
The idea that something can have negative mass is difficult to comprehend. Push it, and instead of moving away from you it will accelerate towards you in apparent defiance of the laws of physics.

To create this negative mass liquid, the researchers used lasers to cool rubidium atoms down to a temperature only slightly higher than absolute zero.
This created something known as a Bose-Einstein condensate - a form of matter in which particles move extremely slowly and behave like waves.

"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, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy.

"It provides another environment to study a fundamental phenomenon that is very peculiar."

Source: Phys.org | Comments (15)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
I wonder how long the effect lasts when the temperature of the fluid starts rising.   From the linked article: "He and his colleagues created the conditions for negative mass by cooling rubidium atoms to just a hair above absolute zero, creating what is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. In this state, predicted by Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein, particles move extremely slowly and, following the principles of quantum mechanics, behave like waves. They also synchronize and move in unison as what is known as a superfluid, which flows without losing energy." Almost sounds like perpet... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by Calibeliever 7 years ago
So, it's a cat.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Rolci 7 years ago
Reminds me of when they created stuff at negative absolute temperature. Negative mass sounds more palpable to me. Also EB condensate is nothing new.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Parsec 7 years ago
So, if according to Newton's second law the condensate goes towards the force pushing it, what happens according to the third? Does it "swallow" the pushing force?  Theoretically it should pull towards itself. 
Comment icon #10 Posted by sepulchrave 7 years ago
The third law should continue to hold normally, meaning the condensate creates an equal and opposite force. This means if the original force was created by a positive mass, the force should push it away from the negative mass. As the force on the negative mass pushes it towards the positive mass, this leads to a condition dubbed ``runaway motion''. Although it seems physically implausible, it is theoretically feasible as the total energy, momentum, etc. of the system is conserved. Wikipedia has a nice article on the subject, as usual. In the context of the experiment described above, it is imp... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by Krater 7 years ago
Negative mass? Ha!  Yeah, and I just farted an inverted Möbius strip.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Parsec 7 years ago
Thank you sepulchrave, your explanations are always appreciated. That is so super cool! While reading the article you linked, I thought "well, we could use it for a spaceship" and a second later I read that Forward of course already proposed it. Well, nomen est omen.    Question: I get the runaway motion, but that is solely based on gravitational interactions.  If instead for instance we apply a force to the negative mass, greater than the gravitational force, are you sure about the third law?  I'm possibly confused, but if normally according to the third law F(a) = -F(b), written also as... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by sepulchrave 7 years ago
The argument is based on gravitational interactions because that is a non-contact force that applies to large objects. And yes, both forces should have the same direction - that is how we get runaway motion. One object pushes the other, the other pulls the first. It is difficult to apply a force other than gravity to this situation without introducing additional complexities. Electrostatic or magnetic forces can result in charge distribution within the objects, changing the forces; while contact forces (which are essentially electrostatic as well) are very difficult to model mathematically. Th... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
I want to see some anti gravity applications resulting from this.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Sundew 7 years ago
One of the best lines in that movie: when the Emperor says, "Bring in that floating fat man, the Baron."  I wonder if true anti-gravity could ever become a reality and what that would mean for travel and other means of transportation? 


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