Scientists just broke the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in a lab

Scientists have broken the record for the lowest temperature ever measured in a laboratory: They dropped magnetized gas 393ft (120m) down a tower to achieve the bone-chilling temperature.
German researchers were investigating the quantum properties a fifth state of matter, BoseEinstein condensate (BEC), which is a derivative gas that only exists under extremely cold conditions. The BEC phase is where matter begins to behave as one large atom. This makes it a fascinating subject for quantum physicists interested in the mechanics and behavior of subatomic particles.

Related: Ten science records broke in 2020

Temperature is a measure molecular vibration. The more molecules move, the higher the collective temperature. Absolute zero is therefore the point at which all molecular movement stops below minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 273.15 degree C. Scientists even created a scale called the Kelvin scale that measures absolute zero.

Some strange things happen when you get close to absolute zero. According to 2017 research in Nature Physics, light can be literally poured into containers. According to Nature Communications' 2017 study, supercooled helium no longer experiences friction at extremely low temperatures. Researchers at NASA's Cold Atom Lab have seen atoms in two different places simultaneously.

Scientists trapped around 100,000 rubidium atoms inside a vacuum chamber to create a record-breaking experiment. They then cooled the chamber to 2 billionthsof a degree Celsius above absolute 0 which would have been an international record, according to NewAtlas.

However, this was not enough for the researchers who wanted to push the boundaries of physics. To get even colder they had to replicate deep-space conditions. The team then took their setup to the European Space Agency’s Bremen drop tower. This is a microgravity research centre at the University of Bremen. The team dropped the vacuum chamber into free fall and switched the magnetic field off quickly, allowing the BEC float uninhibited. The resultant BEC was 38 picokelvins, 38 trillionthsof a Kelvin, for approximately 2 seconds. This set "an absolute minus record", which the team reported Aug. 30, in Physical Review Letters. Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, achieved the previous record of 36,000,000ths of an Kelvin using specialized lasers.

The Boomerang Nebula is the coldest known place in the universe. It lies in the Centaurus constellation, approximately 5,000 light-years from Earth. According to the European Space Agency, its average temperature is -272 C (about one Kelvin).

In a statement, the researchers said that they were theoretically capable of maintaining this temperature for up to 17 seconds in weightless conditions like space. Researchers at MIT believe that ultra-cold temperatures could one day be used to help scientists create better quantum computers.

Original publication on Live Science