Saturday, October 26, 2013

Strangelets: Doomsday Matter?

Predicted by physicists as a “strange” form of matter that might be created in high energy particle experiments and freak cosmic events, could strangelet particles be the death knell of the entire known Universe?  

By: Ringo Bones 

Forget the super powerful mini black holes that could have been created on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN that would have supposedly migrated into the core of planet Earth causing it to implode in a matter of minutes. As far back as 1999, doomsday prophets have been warning us that strangelet particles would be the death knell of the entire known Universe. But what are strangelet particles anyway? 

Stangelet particles / strangelets or strange matter had been theorized by high energy physicists since the dramatic advances of particle accelerator technology – i.e. very high energy yields – since the start of the 1970s. Some researchers believe that ion smashups in a powerful enough particle accelerator could create a new form of matter called strangelets. These subatomic bundles could theoretically created when three species of quarks combine: the common “up” and “down” quarks that are the building blocks of protons and neutrons and the rarer “strange” quarks that are found in short-lived particles such as Kaons. 

So far at the time of writing this blog, scientists have yet to observe an actual strangelet in nature, so they can only guess at its properties. The most dangerous possibility would be the creation of a stable or long-lived strangelet with a negative charge. This type of strangelet would not act like ordinary negatively charged particle; it would grow rapidly by gobbling up all positively charged atomic nuclei that it encountered. Such a voracious beast known as “strange matter” could consume our planet as effectively as a black hole could. But should we be worried about “strange matter” rampaging across our Universe?

According to Robert L. Jaffe, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that strangelets can only be produced under conditions of extremely high pressure and extremely low temperature. Jaffe says: “It is effectively impossible to make them in the ion collider we currently have.” And he also said that “The only place where it could happen is in a core of a neutron star.”Fortunately, cores of typical neutron stars are never just a few thousandths of a degree Kelvin above absolute zero. 

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Despite the inherent dangers, scientists of the future will probably be utilizing "stable strangelets" or strange quarks / strange matter as a newfangled environmentally friendly and almost inexhaustible energy source.