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Frigid 'dynamite' assembles into superatom

Since 1995, studies of a new and strange state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate have deepened physicists' understanding of the quantum nature of atoms. After first creating the state with rubidium (SN: 7/15/95, p. 36), researchers have made these ultracold atomic clouds also with sodium, lithium, and hydrogen (SN: 7/25/98, p. 54).

Now, a French team reports both making the first Bose-Einstein condensate of gaseous helium and doing so in a novel way that may illuminate unexplored features of the condensates. "This represents a whole new kind of condensate that opens up a whole new set of possible experiments," comments William D. Phillips of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md.

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