Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Star Crust 10 Billion Times Stronger Than Steel

OK, this is a stretch for those trying to figure out what neutron stars have to do with K-12 design education but try to wrap your head around these new findings.

Research by a theoretical physicist at Indiana University shows that the crusts of neutron stars are 10 billion (with a "b") times stronger than steel or any other of the earth's strongest metal alloys. Exhibiting extreme gravity while rotating as fast as 700 times per second (yes, per second), neutron stars are massive stars that collapsed once their cores ceased nuclear fusion and energy production. The only things more dense are black holes, as a teaspoonful (yes, a teaspoonful) of neutron star matter would weigh about 100 million tons (yes, ...well you get the idea).

Because of the intense pressure found on neutron stars, structural flaws and impurities that weaken things like rocks and steel are less likely to strain the crystals that form during the nucleosynthesis that occurs to form neutron star crust. Squeezed together by gravitational force, the crust can withstand a breaking strain 10 billion times the pressure it would take to snap steel.

OK, every once in a while I run into someone who feels that science is taking the magic and mystery out of our world. I'd say there is plenty of magic and mystery still remaining. We are not even close to understanding the complexity of the universe and it will be some time before any of the magic of real science is gone. We still have a ways to go to become even a Level 1 Civilization in the face of our own star's impending demise.

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