Let’s Explore the States of Matter

Our universe is actually constructed of a small number of building blocks that interact in a small number of well defined ways. This is physics in a nut-shell for all intents and purposes. One of the fundamental building blocks of the universe as you likely know is matter. And matter in all its’ glory may exist in various states

Let’s start with learning 7 states of matter. I know, I know, we’re all taught in grade school that there are only 3 or 4 states right? There of course are solids, liquids, and gases. For instance, in the case of H20, it can take the form of:

  • Solid – Ice
  • Liquid – Water
  • Gas – Steam

But get this. There are a few other states of matter that may exist as well. I’m going to discuss four states beyond the classical states in this post however there are other aspects of this subject that you may research if interested. Understanding them all fully can be a rather complex exercise, so let’s just start with the basics for now.

The fourth state of matter, after gas, is plasma. Most people are familiar with plasma primarily due to its prevalence in plasma screen TV’s. Plasma is, essentially, an ionized gas. This means that plasma is gas that has become so hot that some electrons have become separated and have joined other nuclei. Plasma can act in bizarre, unpredictable ways, and is therefore a somewhat dangerous form of matter.

The next state of matter, after plasma, is the beam state. This is a somewhat difficult state of matter to understand, and is debated within the scientific community regarding its’ validity. Essentially, what’s important to understand about beam matter is that its particle makeup acts much differently than that of solids, liquids, gases, or plasmas. In all of those other states of matter, the constituent particles act in seemingly random patterns. In the beam state, however, the particles all act in a sort of synchronized harmony, all working towards the same end. Hence the term “beam.” Beam is also different because it is not a heat-exchange form of matter. In other words, all the other states involve an exchange of heat energy, but the beam state does not.

The sixth state of matter, which is actually much lower on the scale than any of the previously discussed five, is called Bose-Einstein condensate. This is also called the zero state of matter. It takes place when matter is frozen to a temperature that is so low that it almost reaches absolute zero. In this state the matter almost ceases to be, and the nuclei pile on top of each-other.

The final state of matter I want to mention, the seventh, is by far the most ethereal concept. It is the thought wave state of matter. The thought wave moves more quickly and is more efficient than even beam matter. It is an idea that is far too complex to deal with in this post and is generally not accepted by the scientific community. I encourage you to research it more if this is of interest to you.

The study of matter is important in the field of astronomy. By understanding the basics, we can increase our understanding of more complex concepts dealing with dark matter, particle/astro physics, neutrinos, and more. I’ll continue to write and expand on this subject as my own understanding grows. Feel free to chime in with any input, thoughts, etc. as always.

Interactive Matter Simulator (kinda cool)

States of Matter

Click to Run

Watch different types of molecules form a solid, liquid, or gas. Add or remove heat and watch the phase change. Change the temperature or volume of a container and see a pressure-temperature diagram respond in real time. Relate the interaction potential to the forces between molecules.

Reference:

CERN – European Organization for Nuclear Research – Press Office. (n.d.). CERN Press Release – New State of Matter Created at CERN. Retrieved February 25, 2012, from http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2000/PR01.00EQuarkGluonMatter.html

Nikolay Prokof’ev, & Boris Svistunov (2005). On the Supersolid State of Matter American Physical Society arXiv: cond-mat/0409472v2

Zhang, S. (2008). Topological states of quantum matter Physics, 1 DOI: 10.1103/Physics.1.6

Image Credit: Center for Cosmological Physics/U Chicago; MSU.

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