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The most powerful forces in the universe

As it turns out, the space is large. And until we find out how we can move faster than standing still, we won't be able to do anything interesting in the near future. So for the time being, we can count on exploring the cosmos on foot. But what we can do is to observe. In fact, we do this very often, and although the percentage of the universe that still needs to be explored sensibly is only around 100%, we at least know that it is filled with breathtaking and indescribable miracles, majesty, incomprehensible vastness and many, a lot of really big things that want to see you dead. Here are some of these …

Neutron Stars

Stars are more or less defined by the tug of war that exists between the explosive advance of nuclear fusion and the onset of its own gravity. Ultimately, however, everyone runs out of fuel to keep gravity at bay and collapse under their own weight. The shape of the star body at this point depends on its mass. The vast majority of stars, including our Sun, simply don't have enough of this mass to end up as anything other than a simple white dwarf. For more massive stars, however, so much gravity will penetrate at the end of their lives that the negatively charged electrons of their molecular components will be smashed directly onto the positively charged protons of their own nucleus. Picking up the charges and leaving a neutron neutron ball.

The resulting neutron star is so dense that a teaspoon of it in Earth's gravity would weigh as much as a mountain, and the mass of the entire former star (remember, we're talking about 1

0 to 29 times that massive star) than the sun) would be squeezed into a sphere no larger than say Philadelphia. Think about it: The mass (and gravity) of several suns, all of which are vacuum-packed into a sphere that you can drive over, at least on paper, in a few hours. It is also worth noting that gravity is by several orders of magnitude the weakest of the four known fundamental forces in physics. The question of how much of this it takes to overwhelm the nuclear forces in this way is like how many sheets of paper you have to stack on the deck of an aircraft carrier to sink the ship. Answer: a lot.


If you ever look into the night sky and see a star that appears to be blinking, it is not. At least not really. What you probably have is a pulsar: a unique type of neutron star, characterized by immensely powerful rays of highly concentrated electromagnetic radiation that shoot out of its magnetic poles as the star rotates rapidly beneath them.

This rotation and the fact that the beam is only visible when looking directly at you is what is responsible for the flashing illusion. In this way, it resembles a lighthouse (unless in this case you should never follow the light). It turns out that pulsars are also very useful for astronomers. The first extrasolar planets have been found to orbit and the incredibly regular rotation period makes them wonderful timepieces, some of which even compete with atomic clocks. So that's cute. You know. From up here.


If you have not yet understood it, please do not visit neutron stars. Above all, no magnetars that are characterized by the breathtakingly strong magnetic fields they have. To put the right perspective on how powerful these fields are, consider the following: Earth's magnetic field is clocked at 1 Gauss (this is how we measure Gauss). The sun? Surprisingly, not too much more intense, with a maximum of around 100 gauss. An MRI has 10,000, and the strongest man-made magnetic fields typically don't exceed one million gauss, since we don't have high enough instruments yet to withstand levels of intensity beyond that. Neutron stars? Not a million. Not even a billion. Try 1 trillion gauss. That is, to say the least, it is completely impossible to adequately describe this.

Magnetars with magnetic fields of more than 1 billion Gauss are even crazier than that of the earth. That is enough magnetic intensity to completely atomize you when you are several hundred miles away from this thing (remember, the thing itself is very small). And it doesn't stop there. When these magnetic fields subside, all types of lethal radiation are emitted into the cosmos, from X-rays to malignant lethal gamma-ray bursts. If you are wondering, no, gamma-ray explosions do not make you an incredible hulk, but transform your entire planet into a scorched hell landscape. And here is the killer: neutron stars of all kinds are only the second craziest thing that stars can end after they die. For stars that are even more massive than these, the force of their gravitational collapse at the end of their lives is so great that it flows right past the Chandrasekhar border and holds up white dwarfs, even at the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff border of degeneration sustainable neutron stars and down to …

black holes

… we don't know exactly. And anyone who tells you that they really understand where the supermassive star's gravitational collapse ends or what exists in the middle of the resulting black hole is lying to you. If you insert the numbers into the existing equations, the answer is "Infinite". Many people take this and run with it, screaming far and wide that the gravitational collapse of sufficiently massive stars is so strong that they lead to an infinitely small, infinitely dense object with infinite gravity known as gravitational singularity. The problem is that & # 39; infinity & # 39; a good mathematical answer is, but absolutely inadequate when trying to describe actual physical phenomena (when you say something is 'infinitely small', it's the same as when you say that object is not so exist & # 39;). What is really said with this answer is: "Your math is wrong."

And it is: Our current equations are simply not high enough to describe what is really at the center of something extreme, dangerous and powerful like a stands black hole. Nor is it as if we could simply take a picture of its interior because by definition they are invisible. If you had a wish to die, you could certainly go beyond the event horizon (the point of no return behind which not even light can escape), but that would still not be good enough. Because even if you've somehow avoided being drawn into a series of individual atoms (or, as scientists literally call it "spaghettified"), you can point your eyeball at the center of the black hole (please don't) me would still not be able to see anything because all light is shining on this object and none is away from it.

So, until we can figure out how to combine general relativity (physics of the big picture, dealing with stars, gravity and supermassive objects, among others) and quantum physics (small pictures, atomic and subatomic sizes like a black) Center is likely), we will never get to the bottom. Hopefully someday someone will, and maybe you will! But don't hold your breath: the inability to unite our two greatest theories has taken the physicists by surprise for decades and has led us to some mathematically magnificent but ultimately untested mathematical rabbit holes like M or String Theory (which requires the existence of 11 dimensions ) let the two theories play well together). Even Einstein himself, the man who combined space and time as well as matter and energy, died and tried to combine his own theory of relativity (which initially led to the discovery of the black holes) and the simultaneous conclusions of quantum physics. So … good luck with it. In the meantime, stay away from black holes.

Supermassive black holes

There is an argument for just throwing this in the last section, but super-massive black holes are so much more dangerous, fascinating, and massive than normal star holes (which are hardly bored) that they deserve their own mention. Scientists now know that supermassive black holes, which can be millions or billions of the size of the sun, may not have resulted from a single star collapse. The verdict is still open as to how they came about, but it is likely that things have had enough time to devour many tasty stars, nebulas, and everything else on their way and fuse with other black holes.

In addition, each galaxy has a supermassive black hole in the center (the Milky Way is Sagittarius A *), which means that it is in close proximity to what can only be described as a cosmic buffet. Take enough time in such an environment and you will probably have a supermassive black hole at some point. Interesting side note: Death would actually slow you down if you were unlucky enough to plunge into one of these giants, unlike your smaller cousins. This is because they are so incomprehensibly large that it may take hours, days, or possibly longer after you have crossed the event horizon to realize that something is wrong. Unfortunately there is still no escape and it will still hurt like hell when the time comes, but hey! You have at least a little more time to wonder about the spectacular way in which you are broken down into your individual quarks. Have fun!


It is difficult to find words in a language that adequately describe the luminosity, mass and incredible power of quasars. To get an idea of ​​what a quasar is, imagine a supermassive black hole from the last entrance, but with a titanic, astrophysical jet of superheated gas that shoots into the cosmos from both ends (no different from a pulsar, but immensely larger), generally perpendicular to the gaseous accretion plane it feeds.

These ancient giants can outshine their host galaxies fairly easily, and the brightest can do so thousands of times. However, if you are concerned about Quasar death, you should not. The next, 730 million light years away, is just a whisper from a long dead animal. The closest active (at least visibly active, though probably dead for a long time) is 3C 273, a 1.7 billion light years away around the corner. But let's keep it that way and hope that a well-deserved place at the top of our list is enough to appease them.

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