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When disordered magnetic materials are cooled to just the right temperature, something interesting happens. The spins of their atoms 'freeze' and lock into place in a static pattern, exhibiting cooperative behavior not usually displayed.

Now for the first time, physicists have seen the opposite. When fractionally heated, the naturally occurring magnetic element neodymium freezes, turning all our expectations topsy turvy.

"The magnetic behavior in neodymium that we observed is actually the opposite of what 'normally' happens," said physicist Alexander Khajetoorians of Radboud University in the Netherlands.

"It's quite counterintuitive, like water that becomes an ice cube when it's heated up."

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