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What is a super atom?

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Asked by Linda Wednesday Jun 18th 2008 in Trivia
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A super atom is an atom that has been cooled to several billionths of degrees above absolute zero. At these extremely cold temperatures, atoms begin to behave differently than normal.

All atoms are in motion. They move faster if they're hotter, and they slow down when cooled. When cooled to such extreme degrees, atoms are nearly stationary.

These atom clusters have the same properties, generally, as the individual atoms of the same material. But they also have some unique properties.

One oddity of quantum physics is that no particle is ever in one concrete place--there are only a range of places where each particle is likely to be. When slowed down to this degree, the region where an atom is likely to be found actually grows in size--to the size of a bacteria--and merges with other atoms. This creates a "super atom" of enormous size--for atoms--that still obeys the sometimes-bizarre laws of quantum mechanics.

Study of these strange particles is still preliminary, but scientists believe that they can one day be used to create new chemicals and materials never seen before in nature. If you're interested in more information on super atoms, check out this article:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CEFDE133FF937A25754C0A963958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

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