The ground state of a quantum critical system
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The competition between the tendency of magnetic moments to order at low temperatures, and the tendency of conduction electrons to shield these moments, can result in a phase transition that takes place at zero Kelvin, the quantum critical point (QCP). So far, the ground state of these types of systems has remained unresolved. We present neutron scattering experiments that show that the ground state of a sample representative of a class of QCP-systems is determined by the residual interactions between the conduction electrons, resulting in a state with incommensurate intermediate-range order. However, long-range order is thwarted by quantum fluctuations that locally destroy magnetic moments, leaving the system with too few moments to achieve long-range order.