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Symmetry found hidden in supercold atoms

Complex E8 patterns detected in physical system

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4:15pm, January 7, 2010

A beautiful math emerges from the acrobatic flips of supercold atoms in a magnetic field, researchers report in the Jan. 8 Science.

Scientists detected an elusive, complex symmetry known as the E8 Lie group in resonating particles, a symmetry long analyzed on paper but never seen in a physical system. The work suggests that this numerical grace may be hidden in other physical systems and may provide a mathematical link between quantum processes in condensed matter and the physics of the cosmos.

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