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  • Neutron stars are the densest things that are not black holes.

  • Neutron stars are the densest things that are not black holes.

  • In their cores, we might find the most dangerous substance in existence:

  • In their cores, we might find the most dangerous substance in existence:

  • strange matter᠎.

  • A bizarre thing so extreme that it bends the rules of the universe

  • A bizarre thing so extreme that it bends the rules of the universe

  • strange matter᠎.

  • and could infect and destroy everything it comes into contact with.

  • and could infect and destroy everything it comes into contact with.

  • Or, it could teach us about how the universe began.

  • Or, it could teach us about how the universe began.

  • Maybe both.

  • Maybe both.

  • To understand how extreme strange matter really is,

  • To understand how extreme strange matter really is,

  • we first need to get a few basics.

  • we first need to get a few basics.

  • What is a neutron star, and how does strange matter break the rules of the universe?

  • What is a neutron star, and how does strange matter break the rules of the universe?

  • To get all of this into one video, we'll grossly oversimplify a few things

  • To get all of this into one video, we'll grossly oversimplify a few things

  • but we'll provide you with further reading, if you want more details.

  • but we'll provide you with further reading, if you want more details.

  • A neutron star is what remains after a very massive star explodes in a supernova.

  • A neutron star is what remains after a very massive star explodes in a supernova.

  • When this happens, the star's core collapses under its own gravity,

  • When this happens, the star's core collapses under its own gravity,

  • with such a strong inward force

  • with such a strong inward force

  • that it squeezes nuclei and particles together violently.

  • that it squeezes nuclei and particles together violently.

  • Electrons are pushed into protons, so they merge, and turn into neutrons.

  • Electrons are pushed into protons, so they merge, and turn into neutrons.

  • All thenothing inside of atoms᠎ ᠎is suddenly completely filled with particles

  • All thenothing inside of atoms᠎ ᠎is suddenly completely filled with particles

  • that really don't want to be close to each other but have no choice.

  • that really don't want to be close to each other but have no choice.

  • They desperately push back against gravity, against the collapse.

  • They desperately push back against gravity, against the collapse.

  • If gravity wins, they will become a black hole.

  • If gravity wins, they will become a black hole.

  • If they win, they become a neutron star.

  • If they win, they become a neutron star.

  • This makes neutron stars like giant atomic nuclei the size of a city,

  • This makes neutron stars like giant atomic nuclei the size of a city,

  • but holding the mass of our Sun.

  • but holding the mass of our Sun.

  • And here, things get weird.

  • And here, things get weird.

  • The environment in the core of neutron stars is so extreme

  • The environment in the core of neutron stars is so extreme

  • that the rules of nuclear physics change.

  • that the rules of nuclear physics change.

  • And, this could lead to a strange and extremely dangerous substance.

  • And, this could lead to a strange and extremely dangerous substance.

  • But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

  • But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

  • We first need to know the rules before we learn how they can be broken.

  • We first need to know the rules before we learn how they can be broken.

  • Protons and neutrons, the particles making up the nuclei of atoms,

  • Protons and neutrons, the particles making up the nuclei of atoms,

  • are made up of smaller particles calledquarks.

  • are made up of smaller particles calledquarks.

  • Quarks really don't want to be alone.

  • Quarks really don't want to be alone.

  • They are what we callconfined.

  • They are what we callconfined.

  • You can try to separate them, but the harder you pull,

  • You can try to separate them, but the harder you pull,

  • the harder they try to pull themselves back together.

  • the harder they try to pull themselves back together.

  • If you use a lot of energy, they just use this energy to create new quarks.

  • If you use a lot of energy, they just use this energy to create new quarks.

  • Quarks only exist together as the building blocks of other particles,

  • Quarks only exist together as the building blocks of other particles,

  • and have never been observed by themselves.

  • and have never been observed by themselves.

  • They come in many types, but only two appear to make stable matter:

  • They come in many types, but only two appear to make stable matter:

  • theup and down quarks found in protons and neutrons.

  • theup and down quarks found in protons and neutrons.

  • All other quarks seem to decay away quickly.

  • All other quarks seem to decay away quickly.

  • But, this may be different inside neutron stars.

  • But, this may be different inside neutron stars.

  • The forces operating intheir cores are so extreme,

  • The forces operating intheir cores are so extreme,

  • that they are actually similar to the universe shortly after the Big Bang.

  • that they are actually similar to the universe shortly after the Big Bang.

  • Neutron star cores are like fossils

  • Neutron star cores are like fossils

  • which can let us peer back in time to the beginning of everything.

  • which can let us peer back in time to the beginning of everything.

  • So, learning how quarks behave inside a neutron star

  • So, learning how quarks behave inside a neutron star

  • is a way of understanding the very nature of the universe itself.

  • is a way of understanding the very nature of the universe itself.

  • One hypothesis, is that inside a neutron star core

  • One hypothesis, is that inside a neutron star core

  • protons and neutronsdeconfine.

  • protons and neutronsdeconfine.

  • All the particles cram shoulder-to-shoulder,

  • All the particles cram shoulder-to-shoulder,

  • dissolve, and melt into a sort-of bath of quarks.

  • dissolve, and melt into a sort-of bath of quarks.

  • Uncountable numbers of particles become one giant thing made purely from quarks:

  • Uncountable numbers of particles become one giant thing made purely from quarks:

  • quark matter᠎.

  • quark matter᠎.

  • A star made from this is called a ᠎quark star.

  • A star made from this is called a ᠎quark star.

  • Though, from the outside, it may not look any different than a regular neutron star.

  • Though, from the outside, it may not look any different than a regular neutron star.

  • Now, we can finally talk about the most dangerous substance.

  • Now, we can finally talk about the most dangerous substance.

  • If the pressure inside a quark star is great enough

  • If the pressure inside a quark star is great enough

  • it may get stranger.

  • it may get stranger.

  • Literally.

  • Literally.

  • In the cores of neutron stars, some of the quarks᠎ ᠎may be converted intostrange quarks.

  • In the cores of neutron stars, some of the quarks᠎ ᠎may be converted intostrange quarks.

  • Strange quarks have bizarre nuclear properties and they are heavier

  • Strange quarks have bizarre nuclear properties and they are heavier

  • and, for the lack of a better word, stronger.

  • and, for the lack of a better word, stronger.

  • If they turn up, they could create strange matter.

  • If they turn up, they could create strange matter.

  • Strange matter might be the ideal state of matter;

  • Strange matter might be the ideal state of matter;

  • perfectly dense, perfectly stable, indestructible.

  • perfectly dense, perfectly stable, indestructible.

  • More stable than any other matter in the universe.

  • More stable than any other matter in the universe.

  • So stable, that it can exist outside neutron stars.

  • So stable, that it can exist outside neutron stars.

  • If this is the case, we have a problem:

  • If this is the case, we have a problem:

  • it might be infectious.

  • it might be infectious.

  • Every piece of matter it touches might be so impressed by its stability

  • Every piece of matter it touches might be so impressed by its stability

  • that it would immediately turn it into strange matter, too.

  • that it would immediately turn it into strange matter, too.

  • Protons and neutrons would dissolve and become part of the quark bath

  • Protons and neutrons would dissolve and become part of the quark bath

  • which frees energy and creates more strange matter.

  • which frees energy and creates more strange matter.

  • The only way to get rid of it would be to throw it into a black hole.

  • The only way to get rid of it would be to throw it into a black hole.

  • But, then again, who cares?

  • But, then again, who cares?

  • All of it is inside neutron stars.

  • All of it is inside neutron stars.

  • Except when neutron stars collide with other neutron stars,

  • Except when neutron stars collide with other neutron stars,

  • or black holes,

  • or black holes,

  • they spew out tremendous amounts of their insides

  • they spew out tremendous amounts of their insides

  • some of which could include little droplets᠎ ᠎of strange matter calledstrangelets.

  • some of which could include little droplets᠎ ᠎of strange matter calledstrangelets.

  • Strangelets are as dense as the core of a neutron star.

  • Strangelets are as dense as the core of a neutron star.

  • They could be really small, maybe even subatomic,

  • They could be really small, maybe even subatomic,

  • but even the largest strangelets wouldn't be any bigger than a rocket.

  • but even the largest strangelets wouldn't be any bigger than a rocket.

  • These strangelets would drift through the galaxy for millions or billions of years

  • These strangelets would drift through the galaxy for millions or billions of years

  • until they meet a star or planet by chance.

  • until they meet a star or planet by chance.

  • If one were to strike Earth, it would immediately start converting it into strange matter.

  • If one were to strike Earth, it would immediately start converting it into strange matter.

  • The more it converts, the more it would grow.

  • The more it converts, the more it would grow.

  • Ultimately, all of the atoms making up Earth would be converted.

  • Ultimately, all of the atoms making up Earth would be converted.

  • Earth would become a hot clump of strange matter, the size of an asteroid.

  • Earth would become a hot clump of strange matter, the size of an asteroid.

  • If a strangelet strikes the Sun, it would collapse into a strange star,

  • If a strangelet strikes the Sun, it would collapse into a strange star,

  • eating through it like fire through a dry forest.

  • eating through it like fire through a dry forest.

  • This would not change the Sun's mass much, but it would become way less bright,

  • This would not change the Sun's mass much, but it would become way less bright,

  • so Earth would freeze to death.

  • so Earth would freeze to death.

  • And, like a tiny virus, we'd have no way to see a strangelet coming.

  • And, like a tiny virus, we'd have no way to see a strangelet coming.

  • Worse still, some theories suggest strangelets are more than common

  • Worse still, some theories suggest strangelets are more than common

  • outnumbering all stars in the galaxy.

  • outnumbering all stars in the galaxy.

  • These strangelets could have formed very early after the Big Bang

  • These strangelets could have formed very early after the Big Bang

  • when it was as hot and dense as a neutron star core everywhere.

  • when it was as hot and dense as a neutron star core everywhere.

  • They might be clumping around the gravity of galaxies,

  • They might be clumping around the gravity of galaxies,

  • as the universe expanded and evolved.

  • as the universe expanded and evolved.

  • Strangelets could even be so numerous and massive,

  • Strangelets could even be so numerous and massive,

  • that they might actually be the dark matter we suspect holds galaxies together.

  • that they might actually be the dark matter we suspect holds galaxies together.

  • But, then again, maybe not.

  • But, then again, maybe not.

  • This is speculation, and the Earth and Sun and planets

  • This is speculation, and the Earth and Sun and planets

  • haven't been consumed in a wildfire of strangelets in the past few billion years

  • haven't been consumed in a wildfire of strangelets in the past few billion years

  • so the odds seem good that it won't happen anytime soon.

  • so the odds seem good that it won't happen anytime soon.

  • Understanding these strange objects today may be the key to understanding the birth of our universe

  • Understanding these strange objects today may be the key to understanding the birth of our universe

  • and why it grew to look the way it does now.

  • and why it grew to look the way it does now.

  • When scientists first started playing with magnets and wires and thinking about electrons,

  • When scientists first started playing with magnets and wires and thinking about electrons,

  • they had no idea how technology would evolve in the next hundred years.

  • they had no idea how technology would evolve in the next hundred years.

  • The scientists thinking about the cause of neutron stars and strange matter today

  • The scientists thinking about the cause of neutron stars and strange matter today

  • may be setting up humans for a future beyond our wildest imaginations.

  • may be setting up humans for a future beyond our wildest imaginations.

  • Or, maybe not.

  • Or, maybe not.

  • Time will tell.

  • Time will tell.

  • So, while you're waiting to see if the universe gets destroyed

  • So, while you're waiting to see if the universe gets destroyed

  • you might still want to find out more about it.

  • you might still want to find out more about it.

  • We've got you.

  • We've got you.

  • Our friends fromBrilliant can be᠎ ᠎your insight into a whole world of science,

  • Our friends fromBrilliant can be᠎ ᠎your insight into a whole world of science,

  • black holes and all.

  • black holes and all.

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