A little poster I made about Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC). When steam turns to water or water turns to ice it is known as a phase-transition. If you were to keep cooling ice it will undergo a number of other transitions into new states of matter.
But how cold can you go?
Using some special techniques, it is possible to cool a cloud of dilute atoms down to a a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero. When these temperatures are reached, the atoms all suddenly enter their lowest energy state (known as the ground state). When this happens, the atoms begin to act collectively. It is even possible to create a laser made out of atoms in a BEC.
In 2001 the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Eric Cornell, Carl Wieman and Wolfgang Ketterle for their work creating the first BECs. I recently came across the Nobel lecture given by Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman; a fascinating read about the history behind the making of the first BEC.
(Image Credit: NIST)