The Ends Of The World: Killer Strangelets
There are a lot of things out there trying to kill us. Space rocks, solar flares, global warming.
So, in the spirit of our eventual apocalyptic demise, I’ve started this series of posts called The Ends Of The World, in which I’ll be showcasing the many, many, many ways we might inevitably meet our end.
Our first destroyer of worlds?
Imagine a jar of grape jelly. Now imagine that the jelly inside of that jar has suddenly decided to eat everything around it — the jar, you, and the entire surrounding galaxy — converting everything it touches into more grape jelly.
That would be a mess.
While it sounds more like a sequel to The Blob than any real science, strangelets are hypothetical particles that act in a surprisingly similar manner, eating up everything around them and converting any matter they touch into more strangelets.
Okay, the universe is weird. So what?
Well, here’s the thing: The chances of being devoured by strangelets may be higher than you think, and that’s mostly thanks to our good old, man-made doom machines, particle accelerators.
Yes, that means CERN.
At CERN, located in Geneva, Switzerland, scientists are hard at work sending beams of protons and other particles careening towards one another, crashing them together in an attempt to simulate the conditions of our early universe, just moments after the big bang.
It’s during these collisions that new particles may appear, and one of those new particles could be — you guessed it — a killer strangelet.
The strangelet would begin very, very small. But as it converted — or ate — surrounding particles, it would slowly gain mass. Eventually, it would obtain enough mass to fall toward Earth’s center via its gravitational pull, where it would finally begin devouring the entire planet.
It’s also possible that killer strangelets are lurking out in the universe, slowly churning through matter, forming a galaxy-sized mountain of goo that could set a course for the Milky Way without us even knowing.
How likely is all of this, really? We’ve made it this far without being eaten by strange particles, and while the purpose of our particle accelerators is to generate new data and discover particles we haven’t seen before, the probability of encountering something like a killer strangelet is extremely low.
At least, we can hope.