Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Neutron Stars can create impossible matter

Hey, want ta get ya mind twisted sideways? Lets talk about "super-fluids". One of the strangest things I have ever read about. A super-fluid really isn't....a fluid that is, not in the traditional sense. Super-fluids are theoretical matter that does things normal matter could not. A super-fluid happens when viscosity drops to zero and thermal conductivity becomes infinite. That means that it would be totally frictionless and could flow in ANY direction and while flowing it would have the exact same temperature throughout the "fluid". First weird thing? I could not be held in any kind of traditional container as we know them. Because it could flow up as easily as flowing across.

It goes without saying that the creations of these exotic materials takes an inordinate amount of pressure and energy. Lot of energy. One place that could support a form of super-fluid would be a neutron star (the remnants of a collapsed super giant star) and luckily there wold be indications this was taking place. Losing energy (brightness) and emitting neutrinos is a dead giveaway.

From the IO9 article:
  • Cassiopeia A supernova fits this bill perfectly - since its discovery in 1999, the neutron star has lost 20% of its brightness and about 4% of its temperature. That's incredibly rapid temperature loss, and the best explanation for it is the creation of neutron super-fluids inside the star.
We are not likely to see super-fluids created anytime soon in the lab. The fantastic pressures and relatively low temperatures are still beyond our technical expertise.

Read the IO9 article for more info


John said...

I think I smell smoke coming from the ears of the executives over at K-Y Brand...

Beam Me Up said...

JOHN!!! ok, I will run with you a second with this... remember a super-fluid can flow dynamically in 3 dimensions. So discounting a flat two dimensional surface, lets look at the effects on say a cylinder. Now a open cylinder (pipe) the fluid would flow to cover inside and out evenly. One end closed like a cup would net the same effect. Even if both ends were closed, the smallest opening would allow a superfluid cover both inside and out evenly and simultaneously. I suspect this function would take place with a positive construct or its reverse. At first I thought that in the case of a totally closed cylinder, the fluid would coalesce at the highest point on either end but I suspect it would just expand to cover any available surface. Gruesome if you think about it.

Thanks for a great laugh!


JoshM said...

Doesn't helium become a super-fluid at somewhere around absolute-zero? I thought it was more than just theoretical.

Gregg said...

Take a look at the properties of liquid helium. At 2 degrees (Kelvin) it turns superfluid, and exhibits all the properties you mention, except (since it has mass) it responds to gravity and "up" is not the same as "down", or "sideways" either. Also, superfluid He exists in laboratories all over the world right now.

Beam Me Up said...

Its my understanding that helium comes very close losing most of its' viscosity but not all. Good call. I can't remember what the thermal characteristics are at those conditions though...anyone?