Washington State University Physicists Create 'Negative Mass'

by SRA International on Friday, April 28, 2017

Excerpt from "‘Negative mass’ created at Washington State University," posted on WSU News, April 10, 2017


PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University physicists have created a fluid with negative mass, which is exactly what it sounds like. Push it, and unlike every physical object in the world we know, it doesn’t accelerate in the direction it was pushed. It accelerates backwards.

The phenomenon is rarely created in laboratory conditions and can be used to explore some of the more challenging concepts of the cosmos, said Michael Forbes, a WSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington. The research appears today in the journal Physical Review Letters, where it is featured as an “Editor’s Suggestion.”

Hypothetically, matter can have negative mass in the same sense that an electric charge can be either negative or positive. People rarely think in these terms, and our everyday world sees only the positive aspects of Isaac Newton’s Second Law of Motion, in which a force is equal to the mass of an object times its acceleration, or F=ma.

In other words, if you push an object, it will accelerate in the direction you’re pushing it. Mass will accelerate in the direction of the force.

“That’s what most things that we’re used to do,” said Forbes, hinting at the bizarreness to come. “With negative mass, if you push something, it accelerates toward you.”

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