Bose-Einstein condensate


Bose-Ein·​stein condensate ˈbōs-ˈīn-ˌstīn- sometimes -īn-ˌshtīn- How to pronounce Bose-Einstein condensate (audio)
variants or less commonly Bose-Einstein condensation
plural Bose-Einstein condensates also Bose-Einstein condensations
: a state of matter that occurs when a set of atoms is cooled almost to absolute zero in which a statistical description of the positions of the atoms implies that they physically overlap each other and in effect form a single atom

Note: The uncertainty principle of physics claims that if the velocity of an atom is sufficiently well defined, its position becomes proportionately ill defined. By cooling a set of atoms to only a little bit above absolute zero, their velocity can be determined fairly accurately, to the point where their theoretical positions overlap each other. At this point, the atoms can all be treated as if they exist in the same quantum state and are part of a single large atom.

Take a rarefied gas—atoms darting around in a container—and cool it so that the motion becomes slower and slower. Each atom's wavelength will widen until finally, as the temperature nears absolute zero, they all overlap, forming an exotic substance called a Bose-Einstein condensate.George Johnson, The New York Times, 16 Oct. 2001

Word History


after Satyendra Nath Bose †1974 Indian physicist and Albert Einstein †1955 American physicist born in Germany

First Known Use

1938, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Bose-Einstein condensate was in 1938

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Dictionary Entries Near Bose-Einstein condensate

Cite this Entry

“Bose-Einstein condensate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2024.

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