Theoretical physics tells us that, hypothetically speaking, magnets can exist with just one pole. This is weird, because magnets generally have two poles: north and south. Even if you break a magnet in half, it just becomes two magnets, each with its own pair of poles. This remains the case no matter how many times you break that same magnet down. However, scientists from Aalto University in Finland and Amherst College in the US recently created a synthetic monopole in a quantum state.
So how did the scientists create something that didn’t seem to really exist? They decided to focus on the most basic conceptual kind of monopole, as theorized by a physicist named Dirac. According to Dirac, a spiraling vortex occurs when a monopole comes into contact with a cloud of electrons. Using rubidium atoms, the researchers created a Bose-Einstein condensate, which is a gas that's been cooled down to as close to absolute zero as possible. This, in turn, creates a quantum state and allows the condensate to act as the electron cloud in Dirac's example. After applying a synthetic magnetic field to the condensate, the researchers exposed it to a laser beam. This allowed them to observe the shadows of atoms in their experiment, where they saw a vortex. This vortex occurred only at one end of the sample they were working with, leading them to believe that they had discovered a monopole.
Although this experiment didn’t conclusively prove that monopoles exist in nature, the researchers believe that it will help them find others in naturally-occurring environments now that they know that the monopoles are actually possible and what they're looking for. This could also help us understand the birth of our universe better, too, as current theories hold that magnetic monopoles were released after the Big Bang, although we've never detected them before.
Via Physics World