What is strange matter, and how do we know about it?


Obviously we haven’t gone and studied it physically, but I’m not sure how we even know it exists. Is is all theoretical?

In: Physics

It’s a hypothetical form of matter made from a stable form of Strange Quarks. We don’t know if it exists or not, it’s just that our current model of particle physics predicts it might exist, but our current model of particle physics is infamously incomplete so it might not exist. If it does exist, it only exists in the cores of Neutron Stars and would only be accessible to us when two of them explode and spill their guts everywhere, and even then, only if the idea that Strange Matter is stable outside high pressure environments is true. If it isn’t, we’d never know unless we made a device that could sample a Neutron Star or if we can make it in a Particle Accelerator.

Note that currently, evidence points to Strange Matter either not existing or not being stable outside high pressure environments because the most famous predicted property of Strange Matter is it turns anything it touches into Strange Matter, and because Neutron Star collisions are a thing and not that rare, you’d expect a piece of Strange Matter, no matter how small, to reach Earth and turn it into a Strange Matter goup ball unless it doesn’t exist. can’t exist outside of Neutron Stars, or is mind boggingly rare.

Within the standard model (our current idea about the smallest kinds of stuff that makes up the universe), there are 6 particles called quarks that make up lots of other stuff. These come in pairs. The most common ones are the up and down quarks, which make up protons and neutrons, which make up the main body of atoms, which make up basically everything we care about day to day. There are also top and bottom quarks. The final pair are called strange and charm. Stuff made from the strange quark is called strange matter.

Like with a lot of this sort of teeny-weeny particle physics, what we know is a mix of theory based on models and observations from experiments. The theory relies on lots of complicated maths. The experiments basically involve smashing tiny things together with a *lot* of energy, and seeing what even tinier things fly out. But it’s really complicated.

Like, imagine you wanted to know how a pocket watch worked, but you didn’t have a screwdriver small enough. So, you just took two pocket watches and threw them at each other until they broke. Then, you looked at the springs and cogs that fell out and tried to put them back together.