Photo: oter (flickr)
Imagine you’re enjoying a nice cool drink on a hot summer day when all of a sudden your cool liquid leaps out of the cup towards the sun, or starts climbing up the sides of the cup and spills over the edge. You might think you’re living an episode of the Twilight Zone, and you’d be right–sort of.
The everyday liquids we encounter–from our kitchen faucets, or in our soda cans–would never be so odd tempered. But, there are some liquids that are just this strange, although we would never encounter them in our daily lives.
A Very Cold Liquid
These substances, called superfluids, can only be found on Earth in laboratories, where they are meticulously manufactured by scientists.
They’re aberrant in nature because, for one, they are very, very cold–much colder than any naturally occurring thing on the planet. While Antarctica is at its coldest 130 degrees Fahrenheit, superfluids typically run about 330 degrees colder than that, near absolute zero.
For example Helium, which we typically engage in its gaseous form. It liquefies at about ten degrees Fahrenheit above absolute zero, and turns superfluid six degrees colder. Held in a cup, it will climb the walls of its chamber in a very thin layer up and over the cup’s rim. Shine a flashlight on a tube partially submerged in superfluid helium, and the bizarre stuff flows upward out the tube, like a fountain, towards the light.