The belief that absolute zero was inviolable has been accepted by physicists for well over a century. Not only physics, but the model of the universe has been partially based on the foundation that nothing could exceed the incredible coldness of absolute zero.
Absolute zero was thought to be the limit of cold because when it's reached (at -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit) atoms become immobile and freeze. Stopping atoms entirely was ranked in the same category as perpetual motion machines.
Now researchers have revealed the widely accepted belief may be a fallacy.
Achieving negative absolute zero is rocking the world of physics and astrophysics on its proverbial heels. Long thought to be impossible, the feat is an absolutely stunning breakthrough that may force a rewrite of some of the most dearly loved physical laws and concepts. Among the theories at risk is the inflation theory that holds the universe is expanding. That theory rests on what was thought to be the bedrock of absolute zero.
The bedrock may be crumbling.
Quantum assist achieves the 'impossible'
A team of brilliant scientists at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany decided that negative absolute zero might be attained. To accomplish that they built "…a reversed magnetic field on a laser-stabilized lattice of super-cooled potassium atoms," according to Ken Anderson at sciencerecorder.com.
The L-MU physicists managed to break through the theoretical cold barrier by segregating approximately 100,000 atoms of a specially prepared quantum potassium gas within a specially constructed vacuum chamber. After reducing the chamber's temperature to barely above absolute zero, they flipped the magnetic field
Describing how they accomplished the physics lab magic, one of the lead team members, Ulrich Schneider, explained, “It’s like walking through a valley, then instantly finding yourself on the mountain peak.”
The team also reports that the breakthrough may lead to the creation of new types of matter.
Inflation theory questioned
The negative absolute zero state of matter is stable despite the fact that the atoms are attempting to collapse. The atoms are kept from collapsing by the quantum effects of the magnetically induced negative absolute zero, bringing into play the structure of the universe. As Schneider explained, the universe is countering gravity and expanding. Both the experimental atoms in the negative absolute zero and the theoretical force of dark energy apply a negative force to matter.
Is it a coincidence? Schneider admits it remains to be proved. If the association is linked, then the newly discovered physical state may apply toward a deeper and better model of the universe and what is really driving inflation.