If you’re like us, you grew up imagining deep space as unfathomably cold and empty. As it turns out, physicists trump that chill and out-vacuum that vacuum on a regular basis—especially when tackling quantum-scale trickery.
Our scientists just plunged down to the threshold of absolute zero to isolate behavior that would otherwise be obscured or destroyed by even the tiniest bit of heat. (Just to be clear, the scientists didn’t actually get that cold, just the materials.) These quantum fluctuations, now revealed in all their frigid glory, actually determine a material’s electronic, magnetic, and thermodynamic properties—you know, nearly everything useful about it. Knowing how and why it transforms at the quantum level helps us develop unprecedented materials, including new superconductors.
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