A new state of matter that can manifest simultaneously as glass and liquid has been found in the most unexpected place: in the eyes of a chicken. The unusual arrangement of photoreceptors in the eyes of chickens, discovered by physicists from the universities of Princeton and Washington in St. Louis, USA, is the first demonstration of a possible new state of matter called a disorderly hyperuniform biological organism.
According to a study published in the journal “Physical Review E“, the discovery was made when researchers studied the cones or sensitive cells in the retina to light that allow the perception of colors. Chickens and other birds are most active during the day and there are four different types of cones, purple, blue, green and red – colored as well as a fifth type needed to detect light levels.
In many animal species the cones are arranged in a structured order, but their distribution in the eyes of a chicken at first glance seemed chaotic. This is because, as suggested by the American physicists, the thing around each cone is a buffer zone which may be other receptors of the same type, so that each type of cone has its own uniform pattern. This phenomenon is called disorderly hyperuniformity and so far only been observed in non-organic systems, such as liquid helium or plasma.
We have found that physical systems have exotic properties and new features. As we learn more about these systems we understand that, in fact, they should be considered as a new state of matter, says Salvatore Torquato, one of the research people. According to scientists, this feature could help design advanced optical materials capable of transmitting light with the efficiency of a crystal and the flexibility of a liquid.