Scientists will probe an exotic state of matter aboard the International Space Station in 2016.
Matter conceals a squiggly alter ego. While everyone knows matter’s everyday particle persona, it also has hidden wave properties, akin to sound or light. To explore these properties, scientists chill atoms to the max—or very close to it. As temperatures plummet to nearly absolute zero (-459.67°F), atoms start looking more like waves and less like particles. Droves of atomic wavelets can even start tuning in to the same frequency and wiggle as a single, coherent wave in what’s called a Bose-Einstein condensate. On Earth, gravity’s incessant tug makes it difficult to keep atoms trapped in a condensed state for long. But in 2016, researchers will be able to keep matter colder for longer in the microgravity environment of NASA’s Cold Atom Lab aboard the International Space Station. Watch the video to learn more about this exceedingly cool mission.