Superfluid helium defies gravity and passes through glass

When Helium is cooled to 2 degree above absolute zero, a dramatic transformation takes place. Helium, which usually can be seen as a bubbling, rapidly evaporating substance, becomes stable and starts looking a bit like water. This liquid, called superfluid helium, will leak through a glass surface when poured on it. Here’s a short video demonstrating the phenomenon. Enjoy!

Edit 16/12/07: Ok Bad headline, sorry about that folks, and thanks to DougBTX on reddit for the correction. The bottom of the beaker is composed of ceramic, which has very tiny holes in it. Since superfluid helium has zero viscosity, it can easily flow through these tiny holes.

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43 Responses to Superfluid helium defies gravity and passes through glass

  1. Err it doesn’t leak through glass, the two examples are it going through tiny holes, and the liquid driping over the top of the beaker…

  2. Err it doesn't leak through glass, the two examples are it going through tiny holes, and the liquid driping over the top of the beaker…

    • All I know is that it’s from the BBC.. but since the video is watermarked as such, I doubt you didn’t know that yourself :)

  3. You must understand the significance of this discovery on modern physics. It was thought that every state of matter consisted of some sort of force of attraction between its molecules at all temperatures called intermolecular forces of attraction. When superfluids where discovered, that is fluids that exhibit no intermolecular forces (i.e. no viscosity), this turned physics up on its head.

    So, no, it is not just leaking or overflowing out of a cup. That is why the scientists won a Nobel Prize. Try not to be so ignorant next time.

  4. You must understand the significance of this discovery on modern physics. It was thought that every state of matter consisted of some sort of force of attraction between its molecules at all temperatures called intermolecular forces of attraction. When superfluids where discovered, that is fluids that exhibit no intermolecular forces (i.e. no viscosity), this turned physics up on its head.

    So, no, it is not just leaking or overflowing out of a cup. That is why the scientists won a Nobel Prize. Try not to be so ignorant next time.

  5. Very cool! BBC really does have some great programming, the discovery/tlc/history channel stuff is terrible nowadays. Even Nova has been slipping away from presenting information that assumes a certain level of intelligence in the viewer.

    Now, when it ‘defies” gravity, is it really the kinetic energy remaining in the fluid that really causes it to slosh up and around (and leak over the edge)?

  6. Kyle, it is nice that you knew something to add to the conversation, but you don't have to be such a jerk to others.

  7. Very cool! BBC really does have some great programming, the discovery/tlc/history channel stuff is terrible nowadays. Even Nova has been slipping away from presenting information that assumes a certain level of intelligence in the viewer.

    Now, when it 'defies" gravity, is it really the kinetic energy remaining in the fluid that really causes it to slosh up and around (and leak over the edge)?

  8. This appears to be diametrically opposed to the criant theory that isn’t. If you think about it, the forces of the nebutron were never substantiated, so this would in turn be a false assumption of the utmost proportion. And why do I have to look at a woman’s leg while I write this drivel?

  9. This appears to be diametrically opposed to the criant theory that isn't. If you think about it, the forces of the nebutron were never substantiated, so this would in turn be a false assumption of the utmost proportion. And why do I have to look at a woman's leg while I write this drivel?

  10. …and while I find the video fascinating, I can’t help but think of Kyle from South Park.

    Although, yeah. Honestly, Kyle–you can’t expect most people to appreciate or understand the ramifications of these kinds of things. *Slight grin.*

    (Taking no sides here. Honestly.)

  11. …and while I find the video fascinating, I can't help but think of Kyle from South Park.

    Although, yeah. Honestly, Kyle–you can't expect most people to appreciate or understand the ramifications of these kinds of things. *Slight grin.*

    (Taking no sides here. Honestly.)

  12. It was nice of you to correct your “headline” but really that’s what caught most people’s attention anyway. Instead, just write “well, not quite… yadda yadda helium ceramic whatever.” :)

  13. It was nice of you to correct your "headline" but really that's what caught most people's attention anyway. Instead, just write "well, not quite… yadda yadda helium ceramic whatever." :)

  14. It was nice of you to correct your “headline” but really that’s what caught most people’s attention anyway. Instead, just write “well, not quite… yadda yadda helium ceramic whatever.”

  15. It was nice of you to correct your “headline” but really that’s what caught most people’s attention anyway. Instead, just write “well, not quite… yadda yadda helium ceramic whatever.”

  16. so liquid helium can simply be put in ceramic/glass that simply? i would think it would crack – does anybody know how to create that temperature by vacuum etc and the amount of power needed.

    i really want to know the name of first guy interviewed and what lab he works out of

  17. so liquid helium can simply be put in ceramic/glass that simply? i would think it would crack – does anybody know how to create that temperature by vacuum etc and the amount of power needed.

    i really want to know the name of first guy interviewed and what lab he works out of

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