Geologists at Southern Methodist University say they havefound evidence of Strange Quark Nuggets (SQNs), which arevery tiny superdense balls of matter that were formed duringthe Big Bang and still exist in the universe. The proof thatSQNs exist is two earthquakes that were caused when theypassed through the Earth.
Strange Quark Nuggets were once just a theory. In 1984, EdWitten, of the Institute of Advanced Study at PrincetonUniversity, said a new kind of matter might have been formedin the first few moments after the Big Bang. It would bemade up of quarks, the particles that make up normal matter,but put together in unusual ways.
Ordinary atoms are made up of electrons, neutrons andprotons. But there are even smaller particles, the mostimportant of which are quarks. Each proton or neutron in thenucleus of an atom is composed of three quarks bundledtogether.
That?s how matter is made up today, but it was different inthe first micro-seconds after the Big Bang. Incredibletemperatures and pressures existed then that caused oddquark combinations, some involving "strange" quarks, a heavytype of quark not found in normal matter.
Trios of quarks that had one strange quark and two regularones would be stable and wouldn't instantly decay. Millionsof them could cluster together. Scientists call theseclusters "strange quark nuggets." They?re extremelyheavy?one the size of a red-blood cell would weigh a ton,and one the size of a baseball would weigh more than atrillion tons.
Witten believed that if SQNs existed, one would occasionallystrike the Earth. If a SQN the size of a red-blood cell hitus, it would release an amount of energy equivalent to a50-kiloton bomb.
Scientists at SMU used computers to search through hundredsof thousands of seismic records looking for earthquakes thatcould have been caused by a SQN impact. These would bedifferent from an ordinary earthquake, which has anepicenter with waves that radiate out from it. Because a SQNactually passes through the Earth, the first station todetect the seismic waves of the earthquake might be on theopposite side of the Earth from the origin of the quake.
The SMU scientists found two earthquakes that matched thisdescription. The earthquakes are evidence that SQNs arereal. But even Witten would find that hard to believe. Hesaid, "The existence of strange quark nuggets remainsconceivable but not terribly likely."
Thank goodness earthquakes caused by SQNs are rare. We?remaking progress in earthquake prediction, but we have no wayof knowing if we?re on the path of an incoming Strange QuarkNugget.
Would there be any warning sign if a quark was coming ourway? Learn how to notice and decipher these signs from RayGrasse, author of ?Signs of the Times,? who was a guest onJune 6Dreamland,clickhere.
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