Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Neutron Lives

The proton is also “three minute jewels so glued tight” that in fact they call the particles doing the gluing (when they are particles rather than a wave function force) gluons. This is a feature of what is called the “strong nuclear force.” It is so strong in fact that it takes temperatures and pressures almost beyond imagining to pry the jewels apart. It is expected that such a state, a terribly hot and pressurized quark soup can exist (the jewels are called quarks). They call such a state of matter a plasma. Minutely shortly after the Big Bang, all that existed was quark soup.

Elements like Carbon and Oxygen are stable atoms composed of protons, neutrons and electrons. I am not sure if the ten minute life of a neutron is a free neutron only, not part of a nucleus but I kind of think there is a kind of magic here and that even while carbon lasts like in diamonds indefinitely, the neutrons involved do change out every ten minutes or so somehow. In any case, there are bajillions of them, astonishingly large numbers involved in any measurable amount of matter. That they constantly wink out and others(?) reappear (how would you tell them apart(??)) is just the coolest thing, only bettered by the virtual particles which spontaneously appear and disappear instantly because they always manifest in pairs and appear as matched particles and anti-particles.

Protons, by the way, last a really long time, aeons, no matter that the uncertainty principle demands their demise. Eventually though, protons disappear and are replaced too.

Neutron Lives

The neutron is three
minute jewels so glued tight
that they will not blow
apart for at least
ten whole minutes.
This seems short to us bigger
people but not so.
Neutrons pass aeons in
seconds, and grow entire worlds
which pass in minutes.

June 12, 2009 12:45 PM


  1. Now you have done it, Christopher, made me have think about tiny things and big things and time and what time means... sometimes 10 minutes can seem like a life time for me... does that mean I just a speck? I think maybe I am a speck.


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