Van Warren

FACT: Recently there has been the discovery of a new kind of matter. Chu, Cohen-Tannoudji and Phillips who won the 1997 Nobel prize, figured out a way to use a laser to cool atoms as opposed to heating them up, which is what you would expect if you zapped something with a laser. Anyway, these cooled atoms can be made to condense together into a primordial condensate that has a very interesting property: Within the glob, the property of location is not defined. Globs of up to 1 million atoms have been created, and bigger ones are on the way. The material is called a "Bose-Einstein Condensates" and it, along with the Casimir effect are on the leading edge of physics research.

FICTION: After a couple of years, it became possible to make buckets of this stuff on short time frames. Something about phased arrays of solid-state cooling lasers or something. The stuff looked a little like a clear rainbow. The first ones were made with Rubidium which was toxic and had to be kept very cold. Later a less non-toxic version came out that was fine unless it got wet when it warmed up. You couldn't see reflections in it. Nevertheless, the location property - or make that delocation property - turned out to be quite strange.
This was first demonstrated by cooling down a glass rod in liquid helium. When the glass rod was stuck into the goop, it would emerge from a completely different direction, as if it had been refracted or something. However, if the rod was pulled out, it was just like before. If the rod was at room temperature, the goop would just evaporate and nothing would happen. But when the goop was cool, sometimes the rod would emerge in one place, only to be replaced by a copy in another direction altogether. These copies would move around like the spires of a milk drop on impact. Sometimes the rod would break, and then the end couldn't be recovered while the goop was cold, as if it had gone somewhere. If the glob was split into two globs, and then heated, all that would remain was two smaller copies of the original broken end. Something explained the fact that things quit working when the goop heated as collapse of the wave function or something. You could shine a green laser on the goop, and the laser light would turn blue and come out the side.
One scientist explained it this way. The goop was coherent matter. Just as coherent light has some unusual properties as seen in lasers, so did coherent materials in the form of the goop. When the goop was poured onto a super cooled solid plate of glass, it would come out the bottom as though the glass wasn't there. If it hit the floor, some of it would keep going, but most would evaporate.
At first schools started requesting the stuff, then individuals. So the company that bought the rights started making a little kit that you could use to store it and a special little fridge to save it in about the size of a shoebox. Lots of people started buying the kits and doing the glass rod trick and other things. All the goop was made in one factory and came from an original large lump, sort of like sour dough bread from San Francisco.
Every year at the Cavendish high school in Vermont there was laser appreciation day. It was actually appreciation for a high school teacher who had been killed in a car accident. The teacher loved lasers and did many demonstrations for her physics students. Therefore, after she died, the students remembered her each year by making quirky laser demonstrations. Some kids just brought laser pointers to school, to noodle on the walls; others went to greater lengths with spinning mirrors, bench demos and measuring distance.
It was about this time that somebody figured out, quite by accident, that if you shined a plain old red viewgraph laser down the long end of the glass rod, which you didn't have to cool the glass rod before you stuck it in the goop. However, when you pulled the rod out, the end that was stuck in didn't come back. No big deal really. The strange part was, back at the plant, or in someone's kit across the nation, the glass rod would pop out of the goop and hit the ground, or the floor, or the ceiling or the wall of the Dewar with a distinctive plinking sound.
Somehow, word got out about this, and everybody with one of the goop kits got marbles and fragments of glass and clear plastic, shined the laser on them, and then dropped the object into their goop. Back at the factory and randomly across the nation came the fragments… Since the factory had the biggest glob those fragments appeared by the ton. However, it would also pop out of someone's goop cooler, sometimes when they were dropping their own marble in. It almost put out an eye in New Jersey, and back at the factory, it almost started a fire when the garbage from all across the nation and the world started popping out at the factory. Somebody tried it in a car, then on a truck, then on a private jet. The fragment would come out of the master glob at whatever speed the fielded kit was traveling. The cat eye that came off the jet left a hole in the wall of someone's house two feet wide and completely destroyed their kit when the Dewar broke and the goop warmed up to room temperature.
Those days were tolerated with a combination of humor and trepidation on the part of the factory that made the goop. That fad lasted about two months until people tired of sending glass chards to each other and the factory and having to replenish that part of their own goop that was lost to evaporation when the laser wasn't lined up just right. The company put out a press release saying that they couldn't predict where stuff would emerge because of the location property, but that it might have something to do with whose goop was lined up with somebody else's goop in the original lump.

Things were fine until it dawned on someone that you could freeze water and it would work the same as glass. Then someone noticed that some cells are clear and can be illuminated with a laser. I'll go light on the details except to say that frozen globs would sometimes come out at the most unusual times from the strangest sources.

The tragedy was that some terrorists in the northeast figured out they could drop all kinds of wicked frozen chemicals, viruses and anthrax into their copy of the goop, which they had accumulated a fair amount of, and it would just randomly victimize people. That period was called goop wars and pretty much brought the goop craze to an end.