NASA Wants to Create the Coolest Spot in the Universe
Tue, 03/07/2017 - 9:12am by NASA
This summer, an ice chest-sized box will fly to the International Space Station, where it will create the coolest spot in the universe.
Inside that box, lasers, a vacuum chamber and an electromagnetic "knife" will be used to cancel out the energy of gas particles, slowing them until they're almost motionless. This suite of instruments is called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), and was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. CAL is in the final stages of assembly at JPL, ahead of a ride to space this August on SpaceX CRS-12.
Its instruments are designed to freeze gas atoms to a mere billionth of a degree above absolute zero. That's more than 100 million times colder than the depths of space.
"Studying these hyper-cold atoms could reshape our understanding of matter and the fundamental nature of gravity," said CAL Project Scientist Robert Thompson of JPL. "The experiments we'll do with the Cold Atom Lab will give us insight into gravity and dark energy -- some of the most pervasive forces in the universe."
When atoms are cooled to extreme temperatures, as they will be inside of CAL, they can form a distinct state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. In this state, familiar rules of physics recede and quantum physics begins to take over. Matter can be observed behaving less like particles and more like waves. Rows of atoms move in concert with one another as if they were riding a moving fabric. These mysterious waveforms have never been seen at temperatures as low as what CAL will achieve.
NASA has never before created or observed Bose-Einstein condensates in space. On Earth, the pull of gravity causes atoms to continually settle towards the ground, meaning they're typically only observable for fractions of a second.
But on the International Space Station, ultra-cold atoms can hold their wave-like forms longer while in freefall. That offers scientists a longer window to understand physics at its most basic level. Thompson estimated that CAL will allow Bose-Einstein condensates to be observable for up to five to 10 seconds; future development of the technologies used on CAL could allow them to last for hundreds of seconds.
Bose-Einstein condensates are a "superfluid" -- a kind of fluid with zero viscosity, where atoms move without friction as if they were all one, solid substance.
"If you had superfluid water and spun it around in a glass, it would spin forever," said Anita Sengupta of JPL, Cold Atom Lab project manager. "There's no viscosity to slow it down and dissipate the kinetic energy. If we can better understand the physics of superfluids, we can possibly learn to use those for more efficient transfer of energy."
Five scientific teams plan to conduct experiments using the Cold Atom Lab. Among them is Eric Cornell of the University of Colorado, Boulder and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. Cornell is one of the Nobel Prize winners who first created Bose-Einstein condensates in a lab setting in 1995.
The results of these experiments could potentially lead to a number of improved technologies, including sensors, quantum computers and atomic clocks used in spacecraft navigation.
Especially exciting are applications related to dark energy detection, said Kamal Oudrhiri of JPL, the CAL deputy project manager. He noted that current models of cosmology divide the universe into roughly 27 percent dark matter, 68 percent dark energy and about 5 percent ordinary matter.
"This means that even with all of our current technologies, we are still blind to 95 percent of the universe," Oudrhiri said. "Like a new lens in Galileo's first telescope, the ultra-sensitive cold atoms in the Cold Atom Lab have the potential to unlock many mysteries beyond the frontiers of known physics."
The Cold Atom Lab is currently undergoing a testing phase that will prepare it prior to delivery to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
"The tests we do over the next months on the ground are critical to ensure we can operate and tune it remotely while it's in space, and ultimately learn from this rich atomic physics system for years to come," said Dave Aveline, the test-bed lead at JPL.
JPL is developing the Cold Atom Laboratory, sponsored by the International Space Station Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The Space Life and Physical Sciences Division of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington manages the Fundamental Physics Program.
#3. "RE: These are indeed exciting times to be alive" In response to HoosierPapa (Reply # 2) Fri Mar-10-17 06:59 PM by jazz4free
He's already been back. Dostoevsky covered the event in his piece, The Grand Inquisitor. It was during the time of the Inquisition. God, disappointed with the way man was screwing up, sent Christ back to see if he could maybe tidy things a little. But, like the first time around his preaching only managed to rile up the establishment and get him arrested. Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, visited Christ in his jail cell and informed him that he had no right to pay us a return visit just to tweak things, that he'd already had his chance, and besides he'd turned over all authority to the Church when he'd wined and dined those twelve guys at that famous supper he threw. Christ had bound himself to the promise that he wouldn't be back until the final curtain had fallen on this farce his old man had set in motion back in the day. So, in all fairness, God had no choice but to honor the deal and leave us to our own devices until...well, coming soon to a local theater, according to you.
Jude 1:18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
I will never understand why people are willingly ignorant of the fact that it takes so much more faith to believe the "theory" than it does Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Life begets life, not some hodgepodge of ridiculous happenstance the "theory" promotes
I can't believe all of the brainiacs on here cane even concede on Intelligent Design, except for this...
1 Timothy 6:20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
I don't subscribe to ID. But I don't behave like a smartass shit to those who do.
Kudos. Obviously, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
And my contempt is more reserved for our resident serial proselytizer than it is for his religion, although his particular brand of self-righteous, judgemental fundamentalist bullshit deserves a healthy shot of it, too.
#9. "RE: These are indeed exciting times to be alive" In response to jazz4free (Reply # 7) Sat Mar-11-17 05:46 AM by HoosierPapa
I have no self righteousness or contempt James. Christ gave me His righteousness. Since you say I'm proselytizing, which I wasn't, it's your decision whether it's heaven or hell. God nor I can or will force you. the choice is yours.
It's ironic that you have contempt for me, because you claim I have contempt for you and the others here...Nuts!
#13. "RE: These are indeed exciting times to be alive" In response to Centrist (Reply # 12) Sat Mar-11-17 10:10 AM by jbmcmillan
As far as religion goes yup but don't care what people believe whatever floats your boat.When it starts affecting my daily life then I get pissed or you start preaching at me.That includes bullshit bible/quran/quotes.
Would you like to show me which part(s) you are referring to? James is the one that is proven way more worthy of that title than I have in this thread. I have plenty of that in me, but nothing I have said, was in smartalek mode at all.
You essentially changed the topic and opened the door to the attack on your beliefs. Read the forum rules.
I strongly advise you join the long-running exodus from this forum. Dominated by intolerant liberals, this is no place for Christianity. Do you really want to spend what may be the last days of your life with these people? I don't think you do.
I posted an informational story of an important scientific research project on our international space station to explore one of Albert Einstein's predictions in his General Theory of Relativity published in 1915.
For the first time we will be able to test that small part of that theory, which has so far been a tribute to his genius. I was overjoyed at this, since I was privileged to have met Einstein, and to have been a NASA consultant for many years, as most of the regulars in this forum know.
Now I wonder why I even bothered to post, seeing it turned into an unwelcome religious debate.