SciVenue - Negative Mass Discovered at Washington State University!

Negative Mass Discovered

New research, released on April 10, 2017, in the field of physics – Negative Mass.

So how come there exists a negative mass?

The research conducted at “Washington State University” and published in the “Physical Review Letters” journal revealed the achievement of creating negative mass. It is somehow difficult to imagine how a phenomenon like this can be true. To a non-physicist, mass is always something positive. Moreover, mass sometimes is misused and interchanged with the concept of weight by many people.

But let’s get a closer look and make things simpler.

Mass by definition is the amount of matter an object contains. On the other hand, weight is the measure of gravity exerted on the object. A book on earth has the same mass if taken to the moon. But the same book differs in weight in both situations.

Now, this is all possible! But what about an object having negative mass?

“With negative mass, if you push something, it accelerates toward you,” says Michael Forbes, a WSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington. Why not try it theoretically. Imagine Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion (F = m a); the force always follows the direction of the acceleration or vice versa. Looking from another perspective, consider a minus 2 kg of mass and apply to it the same formula; therefore pushing the object would result in moving towards the opposite direction.

negative mass
Image via CREOL

Under what conditions do negative mass exist?

Allow me here to explain the procedure carried out by the researchers in the following steps:

  1. The team cooled Rubidium atoms inside a tiny horizontal tube to a level near absolute zero (or minus 273 degrees Celsius).
  2. This state is called Bose-Einstein condensate (BCE) named after the prediction of “Albert Einstein” in 1924-1925 attempting to extend the work of “Satyendra Nath Bose” on Quantum Statistics. In this state, particles tend to move extremely slowly behaving more like waves than a particle.
  3. The researchers shined lasers at the tube, allowing the state of atoms inside to change.
  4. Based on the angle of the laser, it pushes the particles either one way or the other.
  5. By opening the ends of the tube holding the atoms, the laser light, in normal circumstances, pushes the cloud of atoms to expand outward toward the ends of the tube. At the same instance, a shock wave built up on one side of the cloud, caused the cloud of atoms to contract away from the wave.

Forbes said that this discovery would help to uncover much mysteries of physics. One of the related issues is to know what is happening inside the “neutron star.”

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