There has been a massive amount of talk this week after the press release for a paper describing NEGATIVE MASS whoa, amazing, revolutionising physics and all that. Of course, even though I’m not a sceptical person, my first reaction to this was exactly that, very sceptical. And, unlike gravitational waves, which I will happily remind everyone that I was wrong about, I am actually right this time. Of course this doesn’t mean the paper is wrong just that, as always, people have managed to catastrophically misunderstand it. You see the physicists have made a relatively comment-worthy discovery, they have created a system which acts like it has negative mass, but this is not the same as actually having negative mass. The best example I can think of is metamaterials with their “negative refractive index.” An actual negative refractive index is impossible and these metamaterials are, in their simplest form, an array of components producing a net effect of a block with negative refractive index. In this case the superfluid that the researchers created moved in the opposite of the expected direction when lasers were applied. This is not the same as claiming any of the individual rubidium particles that made up the condensate had negative mass.
I would strongly recommend that any readers make sure to follow the paper trail for any story that seems just a little too far-fetched. Of course it is quite upsetting that now people are expected to fact check the newspapers they read but that is just the way society’s going. Until tomorrow, I wish you all a goodnight.