The researchers didn't set out to disprove the central plot of your favorite Doctor Who episode. That was an accident. Kovrizhi and Ringel were trying to see if they could use a mathematical method to model systems that display anomalies (the stuff that always gets Star Trek ships into trouble) like those of the quantum Hall effect. The regular Hall effect (normally just called the Hall effect) explains how, under the right circumstances, metals can display some interesting electrical behaviors. For example, if you take a a metal bar and send a current flowing through it, you expect electrons to keep moving straight ahead in the direction of the current. But when you apply a magnetic field perpendicularly to the current, the Hall effect predicts that the electrons will turn and start moving perpendicularly to both the current's original direction and the magnetic field. The quantum Hall effect takes the standard Hall even further: when you take conductive material into an environment that's both very cold (near Absolute Zero, or -459.67 F), and has a strong magnetic field, particles behave even more oddly. Kovrizhi and Ringel were trying to get a better grasp on why.