Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of, relating to, or being an unstable and transient but relatively long-lived state of a chemical or physical system, as of a supersaturated solution or an excited atom.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Of or pertaining to a physical or chemical state that is relatively long-lived, but may decay to a lower energy state when slightly perturbed or through a quantum transition.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In phys. ehem., having a stability of such sort that a minute impressed change of conditions may produce a disturbance not proportional to the impressed change.
  • In thermodynamics, in a state intermediate between stable equilibrium and unstable equilibrium, but approaching stability as nearly as the conditions will permit.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. (of physical systems) continuing in its present state of equilibrium unless sufficiently disturbed to pass to a more stable state of equilibrium

Etymologies

meta- +‎ stable (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • This spring (a period of great disappointment for our farmers) was a period of the so-called metastable conditions of rain clouds.

    Ferghana.Ru news agency

  • Setup or hold violations cause the output of the flip-flop to enter a symmetrically balanced transient state, called a metastable state.

    EE Times-Asia

  • Technetium-99m, where "m" stands for "metastable" -, one resorts to another isotope, Molybdenum-99.

    Backreaction

  • They manipulate the water in the xylem under negative pressure - what's called a metastable liquid state - right on the verge of becoming a vapor.

    The Open Piehole

  • In this case, the anchoring and hence the unfriendliness/inconvenience for speculation would also mean that the currency regime would become "metastable" as market hedging is more difficult -- but this is a minor inconvenience as one can still speculate/hedge even on a fixed peg e.g. non-deliverable forward for RMB

    Commodity peg to export price vs peg to import price

  • Whatever we do or don’t do any long-term metastable condition of the country will see the Taliban, not controlling the entire country - no one force will be able to do that - but wreaking the same cultural havoc as before in its strongholds.

    Matthew Yglesias » Taliban on the Run

  • (For the case of "metastable" states of excitation, these arguments must be modified analogously.)

    Walther Bothe - Nobel Lecture

  • Of course, before ever seeing service in useful quantities outside the lab, scientists will need to introduce impurities to make the squished xenon difluoride "metastable," rather like the ubiquitous,

    Livescience.com

  • Although the specific causes of solarization are not fully understood, there is evidence that irradiation creates unstable, or longer-lived "metastable", compounds that preferentially absorb light at the blue end of the spectrum (250 - 400 nm).

    Red Ice Creations

  • Thare have been similar dissussions on wether thermodynamics (equilibrium theory) can be applied to small systems of finite size (such as nanostructures), because they are in principle "metastable" (relative to bulk).

    iMechanica - Comments

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