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Scientists aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have created and observed Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs), otherwise known as the "fifth state of matter," for the first time in space, potentially greatly expanding their lifetime compared to the nanoseconds they "survive" on earth. BECs "are formed when atoms of certain elements are cooled to near absolute zero (0 Kelvin, minus 273.15 Celsius)" and are believed to be the missing link to understanding the mysterious world of dark energy.
Albert Einstein and Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose predicted BECs nearly a century ago and scientists have been studying them on earth since 1995, but they have never figured out a way to expand their lifetime more than one or two seconds. Until now.
Thanks to a mini-fridge-size machine called the Cold Atom Lab (CAL), astronauts at the ISS have been able to cool atoms down to one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero and have consistently been able to study BECs for longer than the nanoseconds they survive on earth, according to a study published in Nature Magazine.
I'm not going to act like I fully grasp what all of this means, but I will say I find it amazing that something two scientists predicted nearly a century ago has been observed for the first time for longer than one or two seconds. Einstein and many other scientists of that era were truly ahead of their time.