Questions from University Students

September, 2015, Questions

What are tetra neutrons?
What is Hastatic Order?
How does the LHC create new particles by just smashing two together?
How would smashing two random particles together create a portal?
Wormholes – what are they and can they exist?
Could we use wormholes, and what would be on the other side?
Multiple dimensions – are they possible and could we travel through them?

Running water on Mars?
Tesla Coils
Huge Magnets

November, 2015, Questions

Is there an absolute maximum temperature?


Q. What are tetra neutrons?
They are meant to be four neutrons bound together. This is problematical as neutrons are inherently unstable and decay into a proton and electron in a period of about 15 minutes. If an atom has too many neutrons, it will disrupt. One experiment looked as if a tetra neutron cluster had been produced in high energy atom smashing. However, the result was never replicated and I seriously doubt if they will ever be found. Even the Standard model for particles does not expect them to exist, and it is stated that if they were found experimentally, much of the Standard Model would have to be re-thought. The Wikipedia explanation might prove helpful.

Q. What is Hastatic Order?
Over the last 25 years, physicists have observed a persistent phenomenon while conducting experiments that involved cooling a uranium compound to near absolute zero. When the compound, URu2Si2, was cooled to -428 degrees Fahrenheit, they would see a fall in the amount of chaos in the system. The molecules seemed to snap into an ordered state, letting out a burst of heat the scientists couldn't account for. The question was: Where did this extra heat come from?

The likely answer came from a paper in Nature for January 30th, 2013 which suggested that this material was undergoing a phase transition (similar to how water undergoes a phase transition when it becomes ice) but at the quantum level, reflecting a property of matter that was previously unknown.

The physicists have dubbed this new property "hastatic order" after the ancient Latin word for "spear," which is what the particles resemble in this ordered state. The rest is theoretical and may, or may not, be true. The effect has been explained by assuming that particles have a property called “time-reversal.” If it exists, some particles must have the property of “double time reversal” Obviously there's no current way to test this, but data from particle colliders in the US and Japan has backed this theory. It's like using the square root of -1: it technically doesn't exist, but mathematically it helps solve a number of problems.
An illustration of this is in an article about double time-reversal asymmetry.

The illustration used is of two coins (quarters) sitting flat on a table and touching. When one is moved so that it rotates around the other with their edges touching, it gets back to its starting position 180 degrees out from its orientation when it started. It must go around a second time to get the system orientation back as it was initially. That is a picture of double reversal. Another article presents another picture.

Whether or not double time reversal actually exists is an entirely separate question. I suspect, though have not explored this in detail, that some other effect is causing the phase transition that gives rise to the emitted heat. I am not sure that exotic explanations are the truth until all other options have been exhausted. In this case, I would tend to look for something related to the ZPE to cause the lowering of chaotic behavior and heat emission rather than blame double time reversal.

Question: How does the LHC create new particles by just smashing two together?
The answer is two-fold. First, the particle streams are accelerated to speeds close to that of light. The two particle streams are made to orbit the collider in opposite directions. Therefore, when they collide, they do so with exceptional energy. The energies produced by this collision process are hoped to be high enough to produce exotic particles and, perhaps, black holes. The second part of the answer is that, at these collision energies, the particles suspected of making up things like protons (that is quarks and gluons etc) should be a key component of the resulting fragments.

Question: How would smashing two random particles together create a portal?
It is because of the energy involved in the collision. This energy may be so high that, according to Einsteinian physics coupled with String Theory this can happen. The reason is that, locally, the energy in that region of space may be so high that it may break open the structure of space which would probably unlock other dimensions. This may give a portal provided two conditions are fulfilled; (1) That the theories are somewhere near correct and (2) that the energy is high enough. Many feel that if only (2) is fulfilled, then (1) will be proven

Question: Wormholes – what are they and can they exist?
A wormhole, or Einstein-Rosen Bridge, is a hypothetical topological feature that would fundamentally be a shortcut connecting two separate points in the fabric of spacetime. Such a structure is envisaged as connecting extremely far distances such as a billion light years or more, short distances, such as a few feet, different universes, and in theory, different points in time. A wormhole is much like a tunnel with two ends, each in separate points in spacetime.

For a simplified notion of a wormhole, imagine space visualized as a two-dimensional (2D) surface. In this case, a wormhole would appear as a hole in that surface, lead into a 3D tube (the inside surface of a cylinder), then re-emerge at another location on the 2D surface with a hole similar to the entrance. The situation is illustrated below. An actual wormhole is imagined to be analogous to this, but with the spatial dimensions raised by one. For example, instead of circular holes on a 2D plane, the entry and exit points could be visualized as spheres in 3D space. Sometimes a wormhole is considered to be like a black hole sucking everything in on one side and a white hole spewing everything out on the opposite side.

It can be stated that the idea of a wormhole comes from Einsteinian physics, and is an entirely theoretical concoction. No-one knows where we might find one, and I am sure no-one would want to go through one to find out what was happening, as there is the possibility of no return. It is all just theoretical, mathematical mind-games.


More information can be found at Wikipedia.

Question: Could we use wormholes, and what would be on the other side?
If I were a traveler, I would not want to use a wormhole as we would first have to determine if it was a stable structure in space-time. Second we would have no idea of where it came out, at least until someone had gone through it … and returned safely. Even then it might migrate through space! It is all theoretical so we do not know. Third, as for what is on the other side, it may be some distant part of our universe (or it could be local in our galaxy), but others are hoping it might be the entry into a neighboring universe. We simply do not know.

Question: Multiple dimensions – are they possible and could we travel through them?
Interesting questions! Einstein brought in the idea that time was the 4th dimension as his equations required the universe to be made up of a “space-time continuum”. In this he had 3 dimensions in space and one dimension of time. There are those who question if even that is legitimate, but let us proceed as if it is. The next thing is to consider is if other dimensions exist besides these 4. String Theory requires a number of other dimensions to get their math to work successfully, so other dimensions have been proposed by them. Then other physicists, who were trying to mathematically unify the 4 forces of nature, found that with 6 or 7 dimensions they only had to deal with one entity instead of 4 and their 7-dimensional equations worked well, theoretically. However, others studied this further in String Theory and it was decided that at least 10 dimensions of space must exist and one of time, making 11 dimensions in all. Understand that this is purely mathematics about mathematics; these theories have no contact with reality. Their supporters hope that the LHC will provide data that can be used to verify these ideas.

On this approach, each point in space is considered to be a multi-dimensional ball where all the extra dimensions are “compactified” or rolled up. This may be considered in the following fashion. If you take a piece of two-dimensional fabric and then roll it up, you have made 3 dimensions of it, such as a hose. However, if you are some distance from it, the hose only appears as a one-dimensional line. The balls of compactified extra dimensions are called Calabi-Yau manifolds or figures or shapes. They are portrayed as follows and can be seen in motion below:

calabi grid

This is one interpretation of what the “fabric of space” looks like.
In answer to your question, I guess that it is possible for extra dimensions to exist. However, it must be realized that this concept is the result of mathematical games rather than any actual physical evidence for their existence (although they hope the LHC may change that).

As for travel in or using these extra dimensions, I doubt whether this is even possible on the math that we have developed to this point. I would say No, at least at this juncture. It was hoped that portals may give an answer.

Question: Did you hear that NASA claims to have found running water currently on Mars?! What do you think about that? 
In answer to your questions, yes it is confirmed that NASA has found running salty water on Mars. They have seen dark streaks develop in the sides of some craters, and when the streaks broaden, the action of water is detected spectroscopically. Since we knew that the polar caps are water ice, in addition to carbon dioxide ice, and that the polar ice melts, then it should not come as a great surprise to envisage water existing and sometimes flowing seasonally in a sub-surface layer. This is what seems to be happening in these craters as it is a seasonal occurrence apparently linked with polar cap melt.

Where did the water on Mars come from? Remember that according to plasma physics, the planets all started layered and cool. The original water was probably driven out of the hydrated minerals in the mantle of Mars by radioactive heating of its interior. This water then appears to have been catastrophically outgassed from its interior. The drainage marks are apparent where the massive outflows occurred. The water probably filled the northern basins formed by the Late Heavy Bombardment impacts. Then as the interior heating continued, the mantle of Mars became more mobile. When rock melts, it gains 10% in volume. The excess magma was extruded into the huge fractures around the northern basins. This hot, molten rock basically vaporized much of the northern ocean and filled the basins to their present level. The iron in the magma became oxidized by the water giving the typical rust color to what are now the northern plains. Obviously some water has been retained by the planet and is now part of the seasonal cycle. The high carbon-dioxide content of the present Martian atmosphere probably came from that extrusion of molten rock as well.

Question: I’ve been reading on Tesla coils and hope to build one sometime, but I have heard that when you get shocked by a Tesla Coil, you don’t feel any pain, rather it just attacks your nervous and circulatory system.  Is that true?  And why don’t you feel it? 
Tesla coils are fascinating things to deal with, but be exceedingly careful when handling one or manipulating one in any way. If something goes wrong, you will not be alive to know about it. It is true that you are dealing with high voltages and low currents and it is the current which does the damage, not the voltage. But a current of 150 milli-amps (0.15 Amps) can kill. The reason that you do not feel any pain from the Tesla coil is usually explained by the “skin effect”. What happens is that the current is usually so low that it is called a “radio frequency” current. In other words it has a long wavelength. Radio frequency currents usually stay near the surface of a conductor (that is your body) and avoid the nerves and organs. Calculation suggests that the current might be confined to the outermost 0.075 cm (or 0.03 inch) of skin. In addition, human nerves also do not seem to respond to this frequency range, so are incapable of letting you know that anything is wrong. However, if the current somehow gets in touch with your blood stream, which is a superb conductor, disaster can strike instantaneously. Some more information can be found here.

Question: I have read about a huge magnet that operates on 45 Teslas.  Could you explain what that means?  Also, is it possible for a strong enough magnetic field to kill a human?  And if so, how does it kill them?
The 45 Tesla Hybrid Magnet is the strongest in the world at the moment. It is the only one listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. The 45 Tesla refers to the strength of the magnetic field in SI units which are used internationally. The unit of magnetic field strength, the Tesla, is defined as one Weber per square meter. An alternate definition goes like this: A particle carrying a charge of 1 Coulomb and passing through a magnetic field of 1 Tesla at a speed of 1 meter per second perpendicular to said field experiences a force with magnitude 1 Newton. A smaller unit of magnetic field strength is the Gauss where 10,000 Gauss = 1 Tesla.

The strongest fields in permanent magnets (not electromagnets) we can make is about 4.5 Tesla. In contrast, at the earth’s surface, the Earth’s magnetic field strength is 3.2 x 10-5 Tesla, while the strength of a typical refrigerator magnet is 5 milli-Tesla. The magnetic field strength of a typical sunspot is about 0.3 Tesla. The magnetic field in the coil gap of a typical loudspeaker magnet can get up to 2.5 Tesla. The strength of the LHC magnets is about 8 Tesla, but they are produced electromagnetically.

It is true that a strong enough magnetic field can kill a human. The strongest magnetic field that you are likely to encounter is about 10,000 Gauss or 1 Tesla if you have Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) done for medical reasons. This is hardly sufficient to affect the atoms in your body. However, fields of 109 Gauss or 105 Tesla can instantly kill you. Such fields distort atoms, compressing the electron clouds around atoms into cigar shapes, with their long axes aligned with the field. In addition the cells making up our metabolism are usually bipolar, having a positive charge on one end and negative on the other. They would also align with the field. This means that normal chemical and cellular processes sustaining life would be severely inhibited and death would ensue almost instantantly.

Question: Since there is an absolute minimum temperature in the universe, is there an absolute maximum?
While there is an absolute minimum temperature in the universe, there does not seem to be a maximum beyond which nothing can go.
You are right that there is solid, liquid, gas and then plasma.  The only thing beyond plasma that has been postulated is a "quark soup". This is the condition that the Collider at CERN is trying to accomplish. We might know that in a short while...