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Observation of the Efimov state of the helium trimer

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Science  01 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6234, pp. 551-555
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5601

Helium caught in the act of triangulating

Helium is the noblest of noble gases, almost completely unattracted to itself or any other chemical element. Of course, when quantum mechanics comes into play, that “almost” is an inevitable caveat. For several decades, researchers have been intrigued by a theoretically predicted Efimov state composed of three helium atoms held loosely together in a triangle. Kunitski et al. now report experimental realization of that state and detection of its acute triangular geometry (see the Perspective by Kornilov). Beyond completing a long quest in helium studies, the results shed light on three-body physics more broadly.

Science, this issue p. 551; see also p. 498

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