In a groundbreaking discovery, physicists have observed the formation of strange loops in ultracold gas, shedding light on the peculiar behavior of a unique type of one-sided magnetism. These ring structures, called “Alice rings” after the famous character in Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland, have opened a new way to study distortions in quantum fields known as topological monopoles. This remarkable discovery was the result of a collaboration between researchers from the United States and Finland, who have already made a significant breakthrough in understanding the nature of these quantum phenomena.
Monopoles: The elusive poles of magnetism
Monopoles are the isolated equivalent of a magnet pole, but unlike their traditional counterparts, they can theoretically arise in quantum mechanisms that generate different forces and particles. Although cutting a magnet in half does not separate its north and south poles, monopoles can occur in certain quantum fields, giving rise to one-sided magnetism. Some variants of monopoles exist as elementary particles, while others can manifest themselves in other conditions, such as in the tangling foam of quantum fields. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications
A journey into quantum whirlpools and entanglements
Physicist Mikko Möttönen, a member of the Monopole Collaboration at Aalto University in Finland, has extensive knowledge of the whirlpools, strings and tangles that can occur in the fabric of quantum fields. In 2015, Möttönen and colleagues first observed a topological monopole in isolation in a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), an ultra-cold state of rubidium atoms. This groundbreaking achievement was a milestone in their research.
Decay of monopoles and the birth of Alice strings
Less than two years after the first observations, the experts made an unexpected discovery – monopoles can decay into structures of a different type. In the latest study, scientists observed how a topological monopole transforms into something completely different – Alice strings. These strings twist into unilateral magnetic poles, forming loops known as Alice rings.
Alice’s Rings: Gateway to Wonderland
While typical monopoles last only a fraction of a second, Alice rings have an amazing lifespan of more than 80 milliseconds, that is, twenty times longer. David Hall, a physicist at Amherst College (USA), explains that from a distance, Alice’s rings look like monopoles. However, looking through the center of the ring reveals a whole different world. Passing through this strange magnetic loop in the BEC quantum field can reverse the polarity of other monopoles, turning them into their mirror versions and inverting the ring itself.
Unraveling the mysteries of unilateral magnetism
The discovery of Alice’s rings gives physicists a unique opportunity to study the intricacies of one-sided magnetism in quantum fields. By delving deeper into the study of this phenomenon, scientists hope to gain new insights into the fundamental nature of the universe. With each new discovery, we get one step closer to understanding the structure of reality and the strange phenomena that exist in it.