By Matin Durrani
This is my second full day at the 25th International Conference on Low-Temperature Physics in Amsterdam — LT25 in the jargon — and it’s been a busy morning, despite last night’s marathon conference dinner at the five-star Hotel Krasnapolsky that lasted until gone 11 p.m.
Almost 600 delegates, myself included, were treated to a fairly decent three-course dinner that culminated in what was billed as a “grand dessert buffet”, which seemed to take forever to set up. Thankfully the wait for the profiteroles, fruit slices and cheesecake was ameliorated by a performance by a Dutch philosophy-graduate-turned-magician, whose name escapes me but who did some clever things with various delegates’ wedding rings.
We were also serenaded by a roving accordion player and guitarist who went from table to table and who claimed they could sing songs in 24 different languages. Which was great, I suppose, as long as you didn’t mind the fact they were all sung with a painfully thick Dutch accent. A Malaysian guy on my table, for example, seemed pretty unconvinced by the pair’s children’s song about a parrot.
But back to the physics. This morning I sat in on a session on “supersolids” — a strange new form of matter that some physicists think exists when helium-4 is cooled down to sufficiently low temperatures and subject to high enough pressure. The jury is still out on whether this form of matter exists, although the consensus, as far as I could tell from today, would be that it does.