Matter: any substance which has mass and occupies space. It would seem that all physical objects would be matter and logically that the only things that could not be matter would be imaginary or intangible things. While that seems like a straight forward and uncomplicated definition, science, being what it is, makes it complicated than one would think it would be. Take, for example, the photon it is neither imaginary nor intangible and yet it contains no mass and can’t exist in a stationary state so it isn’t considered matter.
Most people were taught in school that matter could come in three forms or phases: a solid, a liquid or a gas. Most substances can switch from one phases to another when they absorb heat. Some substances are more prone to doing this then others; there is a much higher degree of difficulty turn lead into a liquid then say convincing solid water (ice) to transition into a liquid or even a gas. Scientists, who are never satisfied, rather then being content with three states of matter continued to look and found two more; plasma, and Bose.
According to the Kinetic Theory of Matter; matter is made up of particles and those particles are in constant yet random motion. The state or phase of matter a substance is in is based upon (a) particle arrangement, (b) energy of the particles and (c) the distance between the particles.
In solids the particles are tightly packed and vibrating. Solids have a definite shape and definite volume. Liquids on the other hand although they have a definite volume they have to be restrained in order for them to hold a shape. The reason liquids can’t hold a shape on their own is because in spite of being tightly packed their particles are far enough apart to slide over one another. Gases are inclined to end up all over the place because their particles are far apart and consequently gases have no definite shape or volume.
What makes matter go from one state to another? When matter is heated the molecules absorb the energy and become excited. Excited molecules are like children who have ingested too much sugar but instead of bouncing off the walls the molecules bounce off each other and become farther apart.
Can you guess what happens when you super heat a substance to between 1000 and 1,000,000,000 degrees Celsius? If the gas that is formed is “made up of particles which carry an electric charge (“ionized particles”), but the entire gas as a whole has no electric charge, and if the density is not too high…” then the fourth state of matter appears.
The fourth state of matter is called plasma and is an ionized gas. Like all gases plasmas have indefinite volume and shape; plasmas are also very good conductors of electricity and are influenced by magnetic fields . Think hot and pretty when you think of plasma like fire, lightning, neon signs and the sun. Although plasma seems like a tough club to belong to with such exacting qualifications, stars are made up of plasma and stars make up 99% of the Universe and therefore 99% of the universe is plasma.
Naturally if super heating can cause a different state of matter scientists reasoned that super cooling could do the same; it turned out they were right. If you lower the temperature to 100 nano degrees above negative 276 degrees C (Absolute Zero) the fifth state of matter, Bose-Einstein condensate is found. A fifth state of matter was postulated by two scientists, named of course Bose and Einstein, to exist way back in 1924. It wasn’t until 1995 that their theory was proven correct. In a Bose-Einstein condensate the atoms have lost the ability to bounce individually and must all bounce together (for warmth maybe), they must all act exactly the same and can no longer be distinguished from one another.
To truly understand Bose-Einstein condensate we need to know quantum physics but have no fear our brains are full enough for now and this article isn’t going there!
Sources: http://education.jlab.org/jsat /powerpoint/states_of_matter.p pt