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Strange Quark-Quake!
November 22, 2002 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Are tonnes of strange quark matter zipping through the Earth?
One event occurred on 22 October, 1993, when, according to the researchers, something entered the Earth off Antarctica and left it south of India 0.73 of a second later.
But we may never know the answer:
In 1993 the US Geological Survey stopped collecting data...
posted by anser (18 comments total)

 
Apart from the stopped collecting data, that is so fucking cool.
posted by y2karl at 4:24 PM on November 22, 2002


Sorry ma'am, strange quark matter destroyed my homework.
posted by zadcat at 4:31 PM on November 22, 2002


"Sorry ma'am, strange quark matter destroyed my homework."

And it went, "beepbeepbeepbeepbeep" and I was all, like, 'Unnnnh???"

So I Switched to normal quark matter.
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:40 PM on November 22, 2002


Not only do we have to worry about asteroids the size of Texas hitting earth, we have be worried about particles the size of a human cell setting off a 50-kilotonne nuclear bomb type explosion?

Man, we are so screwed...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:47 PM on November 22, 2002


One event occurred on 22 October, 1993, when, according to the researchers, something entered the Earth off Antarctica and left it south of India 0.73 of a second later.

The other occurred on 24 November, 1993, when an object entered south of Australia and exited the Earth near Antarctica 0.15 of a second later.


I thought these numbers looked funny. On reason to read the original article. The particles took about 17 seconds to go through the Earth not 0.7 seconds - the latter number is an RMS residual (from predicted models)
posted by Winterfell at 4:54 PM on November 22, 2002


Psycho Theme: Meep!!Meep! Meep!
posted by y2karl at 5:14 PM on November 22, 2002


While looking for more information on strange-quark matter (or 'strangelets', as some call them) after blogging this Telegraph article back in May, I also came across an astronomical discovery that scientists have dubbed The Oh-My-God Particle. Basically, a highly-charged particle moving through space at just under the speed of light. Or, put another way, fast enough to reach the edge of the visible universe in 19 days.
posted by Danelope at 5:22 PM on November 22, 2002


The sad part is that even if scientists discovered a way to create and harness the energy of strangelets, NASA wouldn't be able to afford to do anything with it.
posted by GriffX at 5:33 PM on November 22, 2002


All aboard the QuarkXPress. Non-stop from Antarctica to India. Sorry, no snacks.
posted by davebush at 5:41 PM on November 22, 2002


Danelope: so, it's like a photon but carrying a charge? What's the big deal exactly?
posted by blindcarboncopy at 5:46 PM on November 22, 2002


Danelope, thanks for that link.
not be anal (well, maybe a little) , the '19 days to the edge of the universe' figure is only true from the point of the omg particle travelling at a really large fraction of c (because of time-dilation). for the rest of us (who are travelling at sub-relativistic speeds) it would still take a very long time for it to get there.
posted by dolface at 5:56 PM on November 22, 2002


"...a highly-charged particle moving through space at just under the speed of light. Or, put another way, fast enough to reach the edge of the visible universe in 19 days."

Um, doesn't it take light 4 YEARS to travel to the nearest star (Alpha Centauri?), so how does a particle travelling under the speed of light reach the end of the visible universe in 19 days?

If by 19 days, you meant 19 billion years, then it would make sense.... yes?
posted by ruwan at 6:01 PM on November 22, 2002


blindcarboncopy, i think the interesting thing about this particle is (and i'm not a physics person, so i might be getting this wrong) is that it's NOT a photon, so how did it get accelerated to that completely insane speed?
it must have taken an enormously powerful event, and, as the article points out, no one has been able to detect anything unusual in the direction it came from.
on preview: ruwan, my previous post addresses your question
posted by dolface at 6:04 PM on November 22, 2002


blindcarboncopy: If a partical doesn't have any mass, then it can't have any charge. Photons have no mass, so, this obviously would not be a photon. If anyone ever did find a photon with a positive charge, I think it would freak a lot of people out, it would certanly be more intresting then a proton going so fast...
posted by delmoi at 6:16 PM on November 22, 2002


I looked at the strangelet paper when it came out a few months ago, and it was rather weak, IMHO. The statistics didn't match their model (they should have seen more strangelets), the signal to noise ratio was crap, and the data sets were rather messy. Certainly not enough to make any firm conclusions... if there were more examples, maybe, but as it stands, I think the paper is really not worth the attention it's gotten.

The weird thing about the Oh-my-god particle is that it's a subatomic particle carrying more than 300 EeV (exaelectronvolts!) of energy, about the same punch as a 55-mile-per-hour baseball pitch. There are other cosmic rays of that energy, but nobody knows where they come from. (They can't come from too far away because they get destroyed by collisions with the cosmic background radiation, which leads to the so-called GZK energy cutoff, and nobody has seen any nearby sources that can accelerate particles so fast.)

As for mass and charge, it's true that all charged particles have mass, but I'm not sure that it's theoretically prohibited for a massless particle to have charge. But you're right that a charged photon would freak people out bigtime.
posted by ptermit at 6:52 PM on November 22, 2002


Danelope, I do not need to be going to pages that end with further links like: "Killer plasma ready to devour the Earth". Now I won't sleep tonight, I'll be wigging out over killer plasma.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:17 PM on November 22, 2002


*sigh*

I, for one, welcome our new killer-plasma/strange-quark-matter overlords.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 4:43 AM on November 23, 2002


You know, it was worth reading right through to the end of this thread just for that one class post from allaboutgeorge. Nice.
posted by Raindog at 9:04 AM on November 23, 2002


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