Scientists See Reality-Bending Alice Rings For The First Time

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

nasa black hole
A physics-bending black hole

In a discovery akin to a sci-fi novel, scientists have observed the formation of reality-bending structures known as Alice Rings in a super-cold gas. These peculiar circular formations, named after Lewis Carroll’s iconic Alice of Wonderland fame, have given physicists an unprecedented opportunity to study one-sided magnetism.

An Alice Ring is a monopole, a magnetized quantum structure with only one polarized field that becomes inverted when looking through the middle.

According to Science Alert, the Alice Rings observation resulted from a collaborative effort between researchers from the United States and Finland. This team is known for their work with distortions within quantum fields called topological monopoles. Monopoles, the isolated counterparts of magnetic poles on a traditional magnet, are as elusive as they are intriguing.

Unlike slicing a magnet in half, where the north and south poles remain intact, monopoles are hypothetical entities that theoretically emerge from the complex interplay of quantum forces and particles. While one variation of monopoles takes the form of elementary particles, there are other contexts in which they can manifest, creating Alice Rings.

The dynamics of quantum fields can give rise to a distinct form of one-sided magnetism, generating swirling patterns that create transient anomalies, only to vanish shortly afterward. Dr. Mikko Mottonen, a physicist from Aalto University in Finland and a member of the Monopole Collaboration, is well-versed in quantum fabric’s intricacies, including whirlpools, strings, and tangles.

In 2015, Dr. Mottonen and his team achieved a groundbreaking feat by proving the existence of topological monopoles (or Alice Rings) and observing one in isolation for the first time. They achieved this by studying an ultra-cold state of rubidium atoms known as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).

The unexplained phenomena of looking through an Alice Ring and seeing the polarity reversed is similar to viewing an alternate reality.

“We are the only ones who have been able to create topological monopoles in quantum fields,” Dr. Mottonen explained, underscoring the unique nature of their work. In their most recent study, the scientists witnessed a topological monopole undergoing metamorphosis into what can only be described as a doorway to Wonderland – intricate structures dubbed Alice strings.

magnetic tunnel
View through a magnet tunnel

These strings, intrinsically linked to monopoles, morph into one-sided magnetic poles when they form loops. The circular manifestations of these loops are referred to as Alice Rings. What sets them apart is their remarkable stability compared to typical monopoles.

While the latter only endure for a fraction of a second, Alice Rings last for more than 80 milliseconds – approximately 20 times longer. Physicist David Hall from Amherst College in the US compared the experience of looking at an Alice Ring from a distance to Alice’s journey through the looking glass – a mind-bending perspective shift.

“Primarily, this creation of Alice Rings is of fundamental importance. It casts light and inspiration to the search of the deepest constituents of the universe, matter, and information.”

Dr. Mottonen, Researcher

Passing through the center of the quantum field’s magnetic loop within the BEC causes other monopoles to be mirrored into their inverse versions. As a result, the Alice Ring flips into its opposite state. While the inversion aspect of this discovery is yet to be observed experimentally, witnessing the formation of Alice Rings through the decay of topological monopoles is significant.

The practical applications of this finding remain speculative, but the insight into the unstable nature of quantum fields holds the promise of understanding the significant constituents of the universe. “Primarily, this creation of Alice Rings is of fundamental importance,” Dr. Mottonen added. “It casts light and inspiration to the search of the deepest constituents of the universe, matter, and information.”

As scientists continue to study the world of quantum physics, the existence of Alice Rings beckons us to question the very fabric of reality and invites further exploration into the mind-bending possibilities that emerge from the intersection of imagination and scientific inquiry.