There are four commonly taught states of matter: gas, liquid, solid, and plasma.
You probably came across these in school and they’re found in everyday life (yes, even plasma).
But there’s also a fifth state of matter, and this one isn’t so clearly defined: exotic matter.
Exotic matter is matter that doesn’t behave as we think it should. In fact, it manages to bend and destroy the laws of physics.
These exotic forms present plenty of questions about the universe, but also might be our best bet at unraveling the complexities.
Exotic matter is a confusing subject, not only because by definition it doesn’t make much sense. But we’ve covered the basics with this guide.
Does Exotic Matter Exist?
Exotic matter does exist. We have been able to create and observe exotic matter in some forms.
But other forms of exotic matter are only theorized and have yet to be discovered.
Currently, most exotic matter is largely hypothetical. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t out there. It just means that exotic matter hasn’t been observed.
And there are plenty of things in the universe that we’ve yet to observe, but that we’re fairly confident exists.
There are also forms of exotic matter that are unlikely to exist, but that are fun to theorize about.
Exotic matter has often been predicted in order to understand behaviors that we can observe.
The existence of exotic matter can help to fill in our understanding of the universe, even if we’re yet to fully grasp exactly what exotic matter might be.
What Is Exotic Matter?
Although we’ve yet to observe exotic matter, we have some broad ideas of what it might be.
Essentially, exotic matter is any matter that has “exotic” properties and behavior.
It doesn’t appear the way we expect matter to appear and may violate the laws of physics as we know them.
Exotic matter is still hypothetical, which means we don’t exactly have a clear idea of how it might exist in the universe.
Also, many forms of theorized exotic matter are thought to violate the laws of physics.
This makes it very hard to predict exactly how this matter could behave.
Because exotic matter is a fairly broad term, it’s used to describe various forms of hypothesized matter that would exist outside the laws of physics.
Exotic matter can be used to refer to compounds created under high pressure that shouldn’t exist in classical chemistry.
For example, Na3Cl would be a compound that could both conduct and insulate electricity.
Materials such as these, created under extreme pressure, are theorized to exist in the deep ocean, or at the core of planets.
Exotic matter can also be used to describe superfluidity — materials that flow without losing any kinetic energy.
Exotic Matter is also a term used to describe dark. This matter is assumed to exist but remains poorly understood.
It’s less common to hear dark matter referred to as exotic matter, but it does fit the definition.
Antimatter is also sometimes included as a type of exotic matter, consisting of antiparticles that correspond to ordinary particles.
Antimatter particles have many of the same properties of standard matter, just in reverse.
These forms of exotic matter are, in some cases, observable. But in some cases, exotic matter is a lot more hypothetical — and much, much stranger.
Matter With Negative Mass
Generally, when people discuss exotic matter, they’re referring to matter with negative mass.
Particles with negative mass are a hypothetical form of exotic matter which could create the opportunity for time travel and space travel.
As well as having negative mass, these particles would also have negative energy. Remember, E=mc2.
Matter with negative mass could have some startling scientific applications.
Negative mass would repel both negative mass and positive mass, potentially creating a runaway effect.
If it existed, this could be used to create a perpetual motion machine.
Negative mass is popular in science fiction because it could be used to stabilize wormholes.
A wormhole, as theorized, could create a passage through spacetime. It would also be deeply unstable, and collapse almost immediately.
But matter with negative mass, in theory, could keep wormholes open, allowing for shortcuts across space.
Tachyons are another form of hypothesized exotic matter.
A tachyon is a particle that would be able to travel faster than the speed of light, breaking the known laws of physics.
A tachyon would gather speed as energy decreases and would need infinite energy to ever slow down.
A tachyon would violate causality, as it would arrive before light.
You would never be able to see a tachyon approaching, only able to observe it as it moves away.
Although the tachyon has been proposed, there’s yet to be any evidence of its existence.
So far, nothing has been observed moving faster than the speed of light.
By definition, dark matter is another type of exotic matter, as it’s matter that behaves outside our understanding of the laws of physics.
However, dark matter is rarely referred to by the term “exotic matter”.
Dark matter is thought to be the matter that makes up most of the universe.
It doesn’t interact with the electromagnetic field, making it incredibly difficult to detect.
However, without the presence of unseen dark matter, many galaxies would not exist as they do.
Despite being a form of exotic matter that’s primarily unknown, the existence of dark matter is thought to explain some of the peculiarities of the universe.
Have We Found Any Types Of Exotic Matter?
Yes, we have been able to observe and create some types of exotic matter!
The Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)
Bose-Einstein condensates were first theorized in 1925 and were first created in the mid-1990s.
BEC is created by cooling atoms to a temperature close to absolute zero, at which point the atoms cluster together and behave as a single large atom.
This is part of their “exotic” property. They no longer behave like particles and act more like a wave.
Created using rubidium atoms, BEC offers a chance to create a more accurate picture of both the everyday world of classical physics and the minuscule world of quantum mechanics.
Although BECs were first created over 20 years ago, they’ve been incredibly difficult to study.
The effects of gravity, and the tiniest application of energy, can cause them to fall apart.
However, in the low gravity of the ISS, BECs have been created with a significantly greater life span, giving us more time to observe.
Having discovered the existence of the Bose-Einstein condensate, there’s exciting potential for the discovery of other forms of exotic matter.
Tetraquark And Pentaquarks
Tetraquarks and pentaquarks are types of exotic hadrons.
They’re formed of four or five quarks respectively, while the standard hadron is formed of only two or three quarks.
These types of exotic particle were discovered by the Large Hadron Collider.
Tetraquarks and pentaquarks exist only briefly, before decaying into more stable variations of hadrons.
However, the study of them can teach us more about quarks, as well as hopefully explaining some of the mysteries of quantum mechanics.
Exotic matter is a complex subject, not only because the term is broad enough to encompass a variety of types of matter, behaving in some incredibly strange ways.
Some types of matter do exist and have been created and observed.
Other types of matter are purely hypothetical and are unlikely to be found within the universe.
The simple explanation of exotic matter is matter that defies the laws of physics. So finding it is not an easy task.
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