Tag Archives: quantum mechanics

Scientists create coldest spot ever on ISS

Using a compact lab called the Cold Atom Lab and launched to ISS in a Cygnus freighter in May, scientists have now successfully created coldest spot ever.

The government agency created atoms known as Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) for the first time in orbit to focus on their unusual quantum behavior. A team of astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) was able to take the Cold Atom Lab (CAL), which was loaded with lasers and a vacuum chamber, to understand how BECs interact with gravity.

…The scientists produced the BECs with temperatures as “as low as 100 nanoKelvin, or one ten-millionth of one Kelvin above absolute zero,” NASA added, in the statement. Zero Kelvin, also known as absolute zero, is the equivalent of minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature of space is approximately 3 Kelvin or minus 454 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a sense, they didn’t so much create a cold spot as create conditions that allowed the Bose-Einstein condensates to form so that they could study them. The article provides some background about this research, which is focused mostly on trying to figure out how to unify quantum mechanics (which explains the interactions at the atomic level) with general relativity (which explains the actions of matter and energy at large scales). Physicists have been trying unify both for decades, with little success.