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  • It turns out the strongest material in the universe isn't steel, it isn't graphene,

  • and it's not even that ever-so fictional vibranium.

  • It's….pasta?

  • Nuclear pasta to be exact.

  • Ok it's not actually pasta, but it is a material so dense that it's approximately

  • 10 billion times stronger than steel.

  • And yes, scientists have named it after their favorite food.

  • It all has to do with neutron stars.

  • A neutron star is what's left after a massive star explodes into a supernova--it's essentially

  • the small, leftover, burnt-out core of that explosion--maybe 20 kilometers wide, extremely dense, and collapsing in on itself.

  • The inner part of the star actually collapses so much that some of its electrons and protons

  • get squeezed together to form more neutrons...hence the name 'neutron star'.

  • The density part is key here--neutron stars are so dense that a single teaspoon of them would weigh a billion tons.

  • So if you were to dig about a kilometer below the surface of a neutron star, what do you think you'd find?

  • New scientific work has simulated just that.

  • The pressure inside a neutron star is so extreme that the material inside clumps together in

  • unique patterns, many of which are vaguely reminiscent of pasta shapes...which is what they're named after.

  • You've got your gnocchi, which looks like little blobs, and its inverse, the anti gnocchi.

  • Long string-like tubes are called spaghetti and anti spaghetti, there's the good old

  • sheet-like lasagna, and….waffles?

  • That's a little outside the pasta family, but I'll take it.

  • These shapes were unveiled via computer simulation, since such high pressures and the resulting

  • high densities are very difficult to replicate here on earth.

  • Previous work had already demonstrated that the surface of a neutron star is incredibly

  • strong, but these new simulations show that the nuclear pasta that lies beneath is even stronger.

  • A 2013 publication had hypothesized that nuclear pasta exists, but there were no simulations

  • at the time that could show us what it was like.

  • These new findings reveal a high level of detail about the shape and nature of nuclear

  • pasta, and suggest that the shapes are actually quite disorderly and complex.

  • Why does this matter?

  • Well, neutron stars spin.

  • The explosion of the massive star that will eventually become the neutron star gives the

  • whole thing a rotation, and as the neutron star collapses, that rotation gets even faster.

  • This spinning means that neutron stars may be emitting gravitational waves--ripples in

  • spacetime that we could potentially detect.

  • Here's where the nuclear pasta becomes important--neutron stars would only generate gravitational waves

  • as they spin if their crusts have some kind of irregularity.

  • The experts in this field call bumps on the surface of a neutron star 'mountains',

  • even though they're only a couple of centimeters tall.

  • These lumps would be caused by mounds of dense materials inside the star.

  • Sounds like gnocchi to me!

  • So if nuclear pasta does indeed exist the way scientists have now simulated it, that

  • would mean neutron stars are generating gravitational all the time!

  • So, this is where real-world observation and simulation come together.

  • The various nuclear pasta types proposed by this research could be the reason behind neutron

  • stars creating gravitational waves.

  • Scientists think that these 'mountains' on the stars' surface need to be pretty

  • big (by neutron star mountain standards) to produce waves we can detect.

  • These new details about nuclear pasta's nature reveal that the pasta could be causing

  • 'mountains' tens of centimeters tall, big enough that we could spot them with the

  • observational equipment we already have--like LIGO.

  • And observing the gravitational waves of neutron stars would, in turn, experimentally confirm

  • the existence of nuclear pasta--which is quite probably the strongest known material in the universe.

  • Sorry, vibranium.

  • For your updates on exciting space hardware, watch this video to learn more about the delay

  • in the James Webb Space Telescope, and subscribe to Seeker for more SPACE.

  • Thanks for watching.

It turns out the strongest material in the universe isn't steel, it isn't graphene,

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We May Have Just Found the Strongest Material in the Universe

  • 152 6
    Jerry Liu posted on 2019/05/23
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