Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In new state of matter, echoes of a medieval symbol

By Aussiegirl

Another fascinating peek into cutting-edge science and the number three.

In new state of matter, echoes of a medieval symbol

Physicists say they have converted three atoms into a new state of matter whose existence a Russian scientist predicted in 1970.

Borromean rings. The symbol of the medieval Borromeo family, these rings were so intertwined that removing any one caused the entire structure to fall apart. Physicists use the term to describe some atomic nuclei, because if any one constituent is removed, the rest of the nucleus disintegrates. In a new state of matter, atoms themselves form into structures of this nature.

In this state, any two of the atoms repel each other when close together, “but when you put three of them together, it turns out that they attract and form a new state,” said the University of Chicago’s Cheng Chin.

[...] The new state behaves like a Borromean ring, a symbol of three interlocking circles significant in Medieval Italy, the researchers explained. The Borromean concept is also important in some other aspects of physics, chemistry and mathematics.

“This ring means that three objects are entangled. If you pick up any one of them, the other two will follow. However, if you cut one of them off, the other two will fall apart,” Chin said. “There is something magic about this number of three.”

[...] The Borromean rings were added to the coat of arms of the Borromeo family, Milanese aristocrats, in the 15th century. Although there are different accounts of what the rings stood for, one story has it that they represented marriages that had inseparably bound the family with two others.

Since posting this article I investigated further and found this Wikipedia article delving into this fascinating mathematical object (the Vikings used a similar device, and the medieval church saw in the Borromean rings a perfect reflection of the Holy Trinity). I also found an entire webpage devoted to Borromean rings. As one of the researchers said, “There is something magic about this number of three.”


At 8:41 AM, Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Wow! That was terrific!

I`ve never come across that before.


Post a Comment

<< Home