On June 5, 1995, two guys made a really cold lump of Rubidium, and the world was never the same.
That’s right: it was 18 years ago today that Eric Cornell and Carl Weiman brought about 2,000 rubidium-87 atoms within 170 billionths of a degree from absolute zero. When you get something that cold, it “condenses” into a different state of matter (solid, liquid, gas, and plasma are the four most common states of matter). This state of matter was first predicted by Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein in 1924–25. Named after its predictors, the stuff is called Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC for short).
I’ve thrown in a couple of my own graphic representations (because it’s always nice to put a face with a name…), but the rest of this stuff comes from the University of Colorado Physics 2000 web portal. You really should check out their evaporative cooling applet. It’s very cool. In more ways than one.