10.02.20 03:59 AM By Homeroom Education

Liquid, gas, solid or other?


My fascination with ice began in my paternal granny’s tiny kitchen where in her vast know-how of satisfying reactions, we elbowed our way to the hand cranked ice- crushing machine turning hard chunks of ice into a treat that was between a cold crunch and a soft slurry that melted on the tongue. Add in something sugary, and ice became a lovely bit of magic. 


By the time, I learned about the three main states of matter – solid, liquid, gas – and that something so basic as water could exist in all three states, I felt knowledgeable.


Imagine my surprise when I found out that there are states beyond the main three, the so-called “exotic” states of matter. A mention of quark-gluon plasma, superfluid, and superconductor states of matter, and I feel lost in an eerie world. Frankly, I feel a lot less certain about what I know.


When I found a news article spelling out a new state of matter in today’s National Geographic email, one that is simultaneously solid and liquid, I felt quite like a kid once again in a simple place stunned by the discovery and the magic of crushed ice.


Adam Mann, the National Geographic science writer who shared the confirmation writes that when a small particle of potassium metal enthusiastically dances when it hits water as it moves into hydrogen gas and potassium hydroxide.  Needing to see this myself, I searched up a video finding more proof that science is all about “satisfying reactions.”  Mann reveals that researchers have found that when heated and under pressure, the metal can become “both solid and liquid.”  Though likely I’m off target, I can’t help imagining the liquid metal of the shape-shifting T-1000.


In an attempt to help people like us understand this new phase of matter, Dr. Andreas Hermann, a leading researcher in the physics of condensed matter, said to imagine a sponge in your hand, filled and dripping with water.  That’s not tough to imagine.  But then he asks us to imagine the sponge is made of water. This matter change involves a “chain-melted state” which I confess I don’t know much about.  Dr. Hermann calls it “kind of strange.”  Indeed, very cool and with our eyes open, we can find plenty of evidence that keen curiosity and observation has rewards.

Thanks to Aaron Burden for the photo.

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