You go through school thinking that science and physics classes will hold you in good stead for the rest of your life. You get two degrees in engineering, thinking that there won’t be fundamental changes to your understanding of the laws of physics. Well, you’d be dead wrong. So bigly wrong. Everything in the universe has a mass, right? And so you’d be able to predict the way an object reacts to forces like gravity. Well, here’s something that will blow your mind. Scientists have manipulated stuff to act as if it had negative mass.
Now, just wrap your head around that for a while. Negative mass. Negative mass is something straight out of science fiction. That means objects made out of this stuff would react in the opposite way to what you’d expect. Push something away, and it’ll move towards you. Gravity would actually push it off the Earth. It’s just like a moody teenager, wanting to rebel against your wishes and guidance. Only this stuff probably isn’t dressed up in emo gear.
Remaining only theoretical – but a reality on my last physics exam – matter with negative mass has finally been created in a lab. Using lasers to keep rubidium atoms in a micron-scale bowl, scientists slowed the atoms down by cooling them to within a few degrees of absolute zero (-273 Celsius). This makes pushes the rubidium into a special state of matter called a Bose-Einstein Condensate. On application of a second laser though, the fluid started behaving in strange ways, moving away from the bowl, in the same way that negative mass matter would.
This effect wasn’t seen earlier, though Bose-Einstein Condensates have been created an understood for over a decade. However, this discovery has been hailed as a major breakthrough in physics. Manipulating atoms to behave as if they had negative mass is no small feat, and should propel further understanding in science. Now, if only this was found earlier in my life, maybe I would have kept those marks in my physics exams.