The Fascinating World of Superfluid Helium: A Closer Look

Superfluid helium 3He has long been a subject of fascination for researchers in the field of physics. Recently, a team of scientists from Lancaster University in the UK made an exciting discovery that sheds light on how this unique substance would feel if one could put their hand into it. In their research published in Nature Communications, Dr. Samuli Autti, the lead author, presents groundbreaking insights into the interface between the quantum and classical worlds.

The convergence of quantum physics and the human experience has remained a major puzzle for physicists for decades. Dr. Autti states, “In practical terms, we have yet to answer the fundamental question of ‘How does it feel to touch quantum physics?'” The experimental conditions required to investigate this question are extreme and the techniques involved are complicated. However, Dr. Autti’s team has succeeded in providing some answers by examining superfluid 3He.

The experiments conducted by the team involved cooling the superfluid to a temperature slightly above absolute zero using a specialized refrigerator. A mechanical resonator, roughly the size of a finger, was used to explore the characteristics of this cold substance. By stirring the superfluid with a rod, researchers observed that heat generated within it was carried away along the container’s surfaces. Interestingly, the core of the superfluid exhibited passive behavior, while a two-dimensional subsystem conveyed heat along the edges, creating the sensation of touching a two-dimensional liquid.

The key finding of the study lies in the revelation that the bulk of superfluid 3He is enveloped by an independent two-dimensional superfluid. This interaction between the two-dimensional subsystem and the mechanical probes provides access to the bulk superfluid only under specific conditions. Essentially, superfluid 3He can be regarded as a thermo-mechanically two-dimensional system at extremely low temperatures and when subjected to particular energy inputs. This discovery redefines our understanding of superfluid 3He and could have profound implications for future scientific endeavors.

Implications for Fundamental Physics

Superfluid 3He has proven to be a versatile macroscopic quantum system, with applications in various fields. Its influence extends to areas such as particle physics, cosmology, and quantum information processing. Therefore, the redefinition of its basic structure could potentially revolutionize these domains, leading to significant advancements in our understanding of the universe.

The recent breakthrough achieved by Dr. Autti and his team at Lancaster University opens up a whole new realm of possibilities in the study of superfluid helium 3He. By providing insights into the interface between quantum and classical physics, the discovery not only answers the long-standing question of how it feels to touch quantum physics but also redefines our understanding of superfluid 3He. As scientists continue to delve into the mysteries of the quantum world, exciting advancements in various domains are sure to follow.


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