The air between you and this text consists of particles rushing to and fro at several hundred metres a second. The lower the temperature the slower these particles move. What would happen if the temperature approached absolute zero, –273 °C? Surely such cold cannot be achieved on Earth? This year’s Nobel Laureates managed to cool down a gas of alkali atoms to 0.000 000 02 degrees above absolute zero – and then they saw something very remarkable happening: an entirely new state of matter arose, a Bose-Einstein condensate.
The researchers were pleased, but hardly surprised. The quest had been a long one, starting with work by Albert Einstein 70 years earlier.