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Shouldn't there actually be 5 phases of matter? What are all of them?

Asked on 9/15/99.

Wow, you seem to be right on the cutting edge. I discuss the traditional four (4) phases of matter in a similar question, but recent research seems to have added another candidate to the fundamental states of reality. Scientists at JILA (University of Colorado at Boulder) recently (like in the last month or so) "cooled fundamental particles to near absolute zero" and created something called "Fermi Degenerate Gas," a state of matter in which "atoms act like waves instead of individual particles." They are calling the resulting "fermions" a new phase of matter, and therefore this stuff needs to be accorded sufficient respect. This work is real new, and I'm still confused by what it all means. The study uses terms such as "quantum degeneracy" and "bosons" and "fermions" and other vocabulary that a simple-minded geologist has trouble with. One of the extrapolations of the research indicates that if the "fermions" could be cooled even further, they would form an atomic superconductor, a state where electricity flows without resistance. The study goes on to state that "fermion studies are considered particularly important because the very basic subatomic bits of matter - electrons, protons and neutrons - are all fermions."

I plan on trying to follow subsequent research as far as my addled brain will allow. Thanks for the question.


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