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Negative temperature: Atoms beyond absolute zero may be a new form of matter

The temperature of atoms is determined by their energy and entropy.

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A cloud of atoms with a temperature above absolute zero (which is also strangely hotter than any positive temperature imaginable) could be a mysterious new quantum state of matter.

Luca Donini of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have put thousands of potassium atoms into this seemingly paradoxical situation by precisely manipulating their energy levels and quantum states. “Quantum mechanics allows you to do this, whereas classical thermodynamics would never allow it,” he says.

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